OGDEN — If there were ever a time for emotions to run high, it was Thursday night.
That was the belief of Weber State head coach Randy Rahe, whose team had dropped three-straight, including seven of their last ten, before dumptrucking Idaho 93-59 at the Dee Events Center Thursday.
“I thought we played pissed tonight. And we needed to play pissed tonight. It was time,” Rahe said following the game. “We lost our — whatever you want to call it — for the last couple games.”
The word Rahe might be searching for is intensity, and his team delivered it in droves in their penultimate game of the regular season.
It started with defense for the Wildcats.
Weber (17-13; 11-8) smothered Idaho (5-25; 2-17) at the point of attack, pressuring the Vandal's ball-handlers time and again to the tune of 22 turnovers, including 12 steals, while scoring 28 points off those turnovers.
Guards Jerrick Harding (22 points) and Cody John (20 points) led most of those scoring opportunities in transition and semi-transition; the pair combined for six steals in 31 and 25 minutes of action, respectively.
“It was just being aggressive. Just getting back to what we do,” John said of his team’s defensive effort. “Before we were too laid back, just playing off guys and let guys do what they wanted. So we just got back to what we do.
“I feel like we let the offense get way too comfortable,” Harding added. “I feel like the emphasis tonight was just to make them uncomfortable and just be aggressive.”
Rahe, whose team charted deflections at every timeout, said his team ended up with “24 in the first half and about 13 in the second.
“That was a big part of what we wanted to do,” he said.
As a whole, the Vandals shot just 36.5 percent from the field, including 30 percent from deep. Cameron Tyson led the visitors with 17 points, and Scott Blakney and Jared Rodriguez had twin 10-point contributions on a night when Weber held it’s opponent to under 60 points for just the third time this season.
Weber, meanwhile, had five players finish in double-figures.
Brekkott Chapman and Zach Braxton finished with 17 and 11 points in 26 and 31 minutes of action, and Dima Zdor scored 12, while playing just 10 minutes. As a team, Weber shot 50 percent from the field and attempted 27 free throws, making 18.
But the Wildcats also dominated inside. They scoried 56 points in the paint to Idaho’s 20, while collecting 11 offensive rebounds that led to 12 second-chance points.
“We needed to get a little nasty, a little pissed and we needed to go put our foot down and say ‘enough is enough.’ And I thought our guys did that pretty well,” Rahe said.
In the wire-to-wire victory, the Wildcats jumped on Idaho early. They went up by double-digits, 18-7, when John attacked a one-on-one in transition, finished through contact, drew a foul and hit the ensuing free-throw at the 14:21 mark of the first half.
The Vandals would cut it to 27-19 a few moments later, but Weber responded with a 22-4 run to close the first half and carried a 49-23 lead into the intermission. Weber led by as much as 41 and by at least 20 the rest of the way.
With the win, Weber clinches a first-round bye in next week’s Big Sky Tournament. With one game to go on Saturday against Eastern Washington, Weber can finish as high as third or as low as fifth in terms of seeding. Follow Dillon on Twitter @dillondanderson.