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OGDEN — With just under five minutes left in the game, Tarleton State guard Javontae Hopkins drove into the lane and put up a layup that Weber State center Alex Tew seemed to block cleanly.
The referees whistled Tew for the foul, which made it his fifth and got him ejected from the game. In frustration, Tew slammed the ball onto the ground behind him as he headed for the Weber State bench and earned a technical foul.
The center's outburst encapsulated the sentiments of his team as Tarleton State's stingy defense and Weber State's offensive struggles led to a 75-65 Texans win on Tuesday.
The biggest reason for the Wildcats' downfall in the game was one that has plagued them in every game so far this young season: Weber State (2-5) turned the ball over a season-high 22 times, which Tarleton State (4-3) converted into 26 points. The Texans' defense hounded the Wildcats offense all night, who already struggled with clean play.
The Texans employed a full-court press for most of the game, which forced the Wildcats to be smart about inbounding the ball and took precious time off the shot clock nearly every possession. When Weber State was able to bring the ball past the half court line, the home team forced them into a lot of one-on-one situations and led to poor shots at times, which contributed to the turnover total.
Weber State struggled on the defensive side of the ball, as well, in particular defending without fouling. The Wildcats committed 27 fouls on the night and the Texans used those opportunities to shoot 20-of-35 from the free-throw line.
Despite the continued difficulties on both sides of the ball, head coach Eric Duft's team still gave themselves chances to win. The Wildcats started out with a 9-6 lead at the first media timeout thanks to early 3-pointers from Steven Verplancken and Junior Ballard, who finished the night 4-of-7 from behind the arc and second on the team with 14 points.
Dillon Jones led Weber State in scoring with 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Though the Wildcats started strong from 3-point range, they finished shooting just 35% from deep and 40% from the field overall. Tew provided a solid inside presence, but the team's success still relies on play from its guard line and outside shooting, two things that haven't been where they need to be this year.
The saying goes that basketball is a game of runs, and that was no more true than in Tuesday's contest. Tarleton State fell into the first scoring drought when they went more than four minutes without a basket, but from the 12 minute to the 8 minute mark in the first half, the Texans found the bottom of the net while the Wildcats went into their own slide.
The Wildcats failed to get much of anything going the rest of the half and went into halftime trailing 35-28.
For the first few minutes of the second half it looked like the Wildcats were going to get back in the game and even take a bigger lead over the Texans. With a little more than 12 minutes left to play, guard KJ Cunningham drove into the left side of the lane and finished a tough layup while drawing a foul. A made free throw later and Weber State capped off a 14-1 scoring run and had a 47-46 lead over Tarleton State.
But the Weber State drought returned. Duft's team went into another poor offensive stretch in which they went over six minutes without a field goal and the only points came from made free throws. The Wildcats finally ended its drought on a pick-and-roll dunk by Tew on an assist from guard Keith Dinwiddie, his only assist of the game. And about 15 seconds later, Tew fouled out and hopes of a comeback vanished.
"I thought we really played hard and physical the entire night and took a step forward," Duft said. "It was a very physical game, but we battled through it; we just didn't get some things to go our way. We didn't wilt; we battled and got better."
After five straight games away from Ogden, Weber State returns home to take on in-state foe Utah Tech on Saturday.