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OGDEN — Weber State head coach Eric Duft and his staff hoped a dominant home win over Division II Saint Martin's on Saturday would be a turning point in the season.
The Wildcats put together their most complete game of the year in a runaway 74-45 victory against Cal Poly and earned the team's first true road victory of the season.
Offensively, the Wildcats executed better than they have all season; and although 74 wasn't a season-high, it came against a relatively strong defensive team. Steven Verplancken, once again, led Weber State with 15 points, which included 3-of-4 from the 3-point line. He's averaging 49% from behind the arc this season.
Four Wildcats players scored in double figures, including 14 points by junior Ballard, and Dillon Jones had 13 points and Dyson Koehler pitched in 10 points of his own.
The starting five for Weber State made up 47 of the team's 74 points and getting the remaining 27 points from the bench was a huge boon for an offense that's been up and down to start the season.
It took a few minutes for that offense to get going but the Mustangs built up a quick 9-2 lead in the early portion of the game. While it seemed like most of the starts this Wildcats team has had this year, it was anything but the ones before it.
Weber State went on a strong 21-2 scoring run over the next 10 minutes of game time and led 23-11 a little past the midway point of the first half. Verplancken hit all of his 3-pointers during this stretch and seemed to have a fourth, but it was later changed to a long 2-pointer.
During that time, the Wildcats received contributions from all over the floor, including from the bigs down low. Cal Poly wanted to make use of their centers, 6-foot-8 senior Alimamy Koroma and the 7-foot-1 big man formerly of Wasatch Academy Bryan Penn-Johnson. Weber State countered with their 6-foot-11 centers in Alex Tew and Handje Tamba.
While the guards and forwards typically bring the most on the offensive side of the ball, Weber State's big men got in on the action and benefitted from the driving-and-dishing from the guard line.
The Wildcats knocked down 11 3-pointers in the game at a 50% rate and six different players recording at least one 3-pointer. For a team built on outside shooting, it was an important step to see the results against Division II teams translate to a game of a higher caliber.
The offense was huge in the game, but the real star of the show was the Weber State defense. The Wildcats held the Mustangs to 45 points, which will often be enough to win most basketball games.
Koroma led Cal Poly in scores and finished with 11 points but on only 4-of-10 shooting from the field. The other dangerous big, Penn-Johnson, was held to just 8 points, and only two Mustangs scored in double figures.
The Mustangs did their best to increase the tempo and work their way back into the game, but the visiting Wildcats were ready in the second half. Weber State's lead never dropped below 13 points and it seemed like they could do no wrong. Even when Cal Poly brought pressure with full- and half-court presses, Duft's team handled them better than they ever had before and increased their lead.
With the first of three consecutive road games starting out in a largely positive way, the hope for the progarm is that the confidence builds and the Wildcats take the performance into upcoming matchups, both against in-state foes Utah State and BYU.
As the season nears the midway point, a win like the one Weber State earned on Friday night could set the tone for the rest of the season.