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After 3-game skid, message remains the same for Wildcats: 'We're gonna be all right'

Weber State welcomes Fresno State to the Dee Events Center in Ogden on Dec. 23, 2021.

Weber State welcomes Fresno State to the Dee Events Center in Ogden on Dec. 23, 2021. (Weber State Athletics)

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OGDEN — When fifth-year senior JJ Overton subbed out with just under three minutes left in the game, he walked down the bench and said to each of the players on the sideline: "There's no doubt in my mind, we're gonna be fine."

At this point in the game, Weber State was down 69-42 and the result of the game was already in the bag. The Wildcats didn't give up a point over the last three minutes but dropped their third-straight home game to Fresno State 69-43.

Following the loss, which resulted in a three-game skid and fourth straight against Division I opponents, Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said the losses to Washington State, Utah State, BYU and Fresno State will only help his team ready as they prepare for their Big Sky Conference schedule.

"We're not going to see anybody in our league like the last four games, and probably like about eight of the teams we've played so far," Rahe said. "When you play against high-level players, high-level teams, and then we get to our league, hopefully you feel good about where you're at. That's why you play high-level teams; that's why I've always played a really, really hard schedule."

The Wildcats began the season winning eight-straight games and were one of the final 12 undefeated teams in the nation. Since the hot start, Weber State has dropped four of their last five games, with the only win during that time coming over Maine Fort Kent of the USCAA.

The losses have exposed critical areas of Weber State's game that will need to be tweaked before starting conference play after a three-day Christmas break.

Weber State's opponents during the four losses on the season have shot a combined 54% from 3-point range; and the Wildcats have not had the same luck from behind the arc and have shot just 26%, which caused a great imbalance in rebounding — opponents racked up 159 boards to Weber State's 109.

What caused the tilt: not keeping the ball in front of defenders and out of the paint.

"When they get into the paint, it causes rotation, and then we're not quick enough to get to the rotations." Rahe said on defensive breakdowns. "It's hard to guard rotation 3s; so the whole thing is you've got to keep the ball out of the paint."

"We've just got to keep the ball in front of us; and I think once we contain that, I think our team is really good," Overton added. "We keep the ball in front of us, I think we can play a lot better than how we have been at home the last few games."

Having the ball continually move on offense has been another issue Weber State has faced during the four losses. During the span, the team averaged only 7.5 assists per game while opponents averaged 18.8 assists.

Not hitting shots will drastically decrease the number of assists per game, but so will taking the ball one-on-one, or taking the defense's bait of quick, contested shots in the shot clock.

After a three-day Christmas break, Weber State will have four practices before traveling to Montana for away games against Montana State and Montana. The four practices will give the Wildcats time to make necessary adjustments as they begin conference with a clean 0-0 slate.

"There's not a doubt in my mind where I'm like, maybe," Overton said. "I just think we're gonna be all right, really do."

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