OGDEN — The Weber State Wildcats and Eastern Washington Eagles started Saturday night competing for third place in the Big Sky standings.
They ended it with a heated exchange and a war of words.
A tense postgame scene unfolded in the immediate aftermath following Weber’s 80-77 loss to Eastern Washington at the Dee Events Center, as Eagles head coach Shantay Legans and Weber assistant Tim O’Flanagan could be seen exchanging words in the handshake line, sparking off a series of events that ended with both teams’ players and coaches at center court before being separated.
“He (Legans) said one of our assistant coaches said something to one of their players," Weber head coach Randy Rahe said. "I’m gonna tell you this, our coaches do not say anything to opposing players. So, maybe he heard something. Maybe one of their players told him that and he overreacted. It was more of a heat-of-the-moment type of thing.”
Legans could not be reached for comment after the game.
Throughout the game, Legans could be seen interacting with the Weber student section and with those working at the scorer’s table. And while it was unclear what was said, the second-year coach, as seen in the video, felt the need to apologize for it following the incident.
Emotions running high after tonight’s Weber-Eastern Washington game. EWU head coach Shantay Legans and Weber assistant Tim O’Flanagan exchanged words after the game, and this is what followed. pic.twitter.com/xD0XT9bePy— Dillon Anderson (@dillondanderson) March 10, 2019
On the whole, it was a frustrating night for Weber, which fell to 17-14 and 11-9 in Big Sky play with the loss. The Wildcats will enter next week’s conference tournament as the four-seed, playing fifth-seeded Portland State on Thursday at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho.
“I think we can reset,” Rahe said of his team heading into the tournament. “I think we can get our juices flowing, get our energy up and we can do some damn damage. I know that. I’ve got great faith in this team. It’s been a tough stretch here, you know?”
Indeed, after Saturday, Weber has lost eight of its last 12 games; and in the process, fallen from first to fourth place in the conference standings. Injuries to key players like Jerrick Harding, Zach Braxton and Ricky Nelson have contributed to the recent downturn.
“It seems like we had that three-week stretch there where we had guys injured, and in and out, and when we got back — about a week ago or whatever it was — we’re not in that great rhythm like we were before that,” Rahe said. “We’re fighting that a little bit, that rhythm and it might even be just a tad confidence.”
The Wildcats led 15-2 early and took a 2-point lead into halftime, but they couldn't stop the three-headed monster of Mason Peatling (23 points), Jesse Hunt (22 points) and Kim Aiken (20 points), who scored a combined 65 points for the Eagles.
“I thought we gave ourselves a good opportunity to win and we just did not execute down the stretch. And that’s basically what it came down to,” Rahe said.
To Rahe's point, the Wildcats — who trailed 66-57 with 7:49 remaining — had every opportunity to win the game in its dying moments. They stole the lead from the Eagles when Harding’s free throws gave them a 77-76 advantage with 1:09 left.
But following consecutive empty possessions, Brekkott Chapman was called for a controversial foul on Hunt as he jumped for a rebound, resulting in two free throws that allowed the Eagles to reclaim a 78-77 lead and set up the first of two Cody John 3-point attempts.
John’s first appeared to be good, but with 16 seconds remaining, John made a false step toward an Eastern Washington defender and flared out for a wide-open look from three — which rimmed out and into the arms of Aiken, who was promptly fouled by Weber.
“It was a slide play,” Harding explained afterward. “So he acted like he was gonna set a screen and then flare out. But he had a wide-open look. We’ll take that 10 out of 10 times with Cody.”
Aiken’s free throws extended the Eagles’ lead 80-77 a few moments later. But with four seconds left and no timeouts remaining for Weber, John took the inbounds pass and raced up the floor for his second 3-pointer, which careened off the glass as time expired.
In the second half, the Wildcats shot a lowly 22.2 percent from three, down from a sizzling 58.3 percent in the first half.
“We didn’t do a good job of executing. I feel like we did a good job of that in the first half, but we didn’t carry it over to the second,” Harding said.
John had 24 points, as did Harding, who combined to shoot 17-of-35 from the field. Caleb Nero added 8 points, and seniors Zach Braxton and Brekkott Chapman, who played their last games at the Dee Events Center, both supplied 5 points each. Chapman fouled out with 22 seconds remaining.
Follow Dillon on Twitter @dillondanderson.