Battle of Wildcats has Weber State shoot past Abilene Christian 77-67

Steven Verplancken (11) sets up for a shot in a game against Abilene Christian on Nov. 22, 2022.

Steven Verplancken (11) sets up for a shot in a game against Abilene Christian on Nov. 22, 2022. (Kyzer Armendariz, Weber State Athletics)

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OGDEN — For much of the night, it was a catfight between the Wildcats of Weber State and the Wildcats of Abilene Christian. The home Wildcats snatched a late lead and held on for its first Division I win of the season in a 77-67 victory over ACU.

As has become a bit of a standard as of late, the opposing team shot better than their normal averages in the first half against Weber State (2-3). Abilene Christian (2-3) shot strong percentages in the first half, led by guard Cameron Steele. The ACU Wildcats shot 57.7% from the field and a strong 66.7% from 3-point range, with Steele shooting 3-for-5 from distance.

It didn't matter that the WSU Wildcats played relatively good defense in the first half. Rotations were better and ACU didn't have as many open shot opportunities as past opponents have. The ACU Wildcats had luck on their side and multiple shots bounced a few times on the rim before finding their way to the bottom of the net.

Weber State's offense did better in the first half than in previous games, as well. While the Wildcats still had a difficult time knocking down shots from the perimeter, the ball movement and scheme on offense improved.

Free throws and playing clean with the ball were big reasons Weber State went into halftime tied with Abilene Christian 40-40. In their three losses this year, the Wildcats have averaged 15 turnovers in each game. Often, Weber State pushed double digit turnovers by the end of the first half in each contest. In the win over Abilene Christian, Weber State kept that number to six in the first half.

Following a similar script as Monday, Weber State came out stronger on defense in the second half, and their opponent's hot shooting cooled off. But again, difficulties on the offensive end made it difficult for the Wildcats to pull away from ACU.

Weber State tried to play with a bit more tempo in the second half, which led to more turnovers. About eight minutes into the second half, the Wildcats had already committed seven turnovers and finished the half with 12 and 18 for the game. But the offense got key shots from the guard line; Steven Verplancken led Weber State scorers with 19 points on 50% shooting and 4-of-7 from 3-point range.

While Verplancken provided an offensive boost with his 3-point shot, the rest of the team's 3-point shooting struggled. By the end of the game, Weber State shot just 28.6% from 3, with no other Wildcats player making more than one long-range shot.

The home Wildcats finished the game nearly perfect from the free-throw line as Zahir Porter and KJ Cunningham missed one apiece at the end. But Weber State finished 23-of-25, while Abilene Christian went 6-of-11 from the free-throw line.

Weber State wraps up its participation in the Vegas 4 Tournament on Wednesday against Wright State.


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