Consistent offense a work in progress for Weber State and loss to BYU proved it

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OGDEN — Before his first season as head coach after 16 years as an assistant, Eric Duft knew his team would take some time to gel with an influx of transfers and freshmen on the roster.

The players get along with each other well enough, but harmony in a locker room doesn't immediately transfer to on-court success. After a close loss to in-state foe BYU Thursday night, the biggest difficulty that has plagued the Wildcats for most of the season showed itself yet again on Thursday.

Weber State has dealt with a streaky offensive showing — some games it makes the team look like a well-oiled machine while others clearly illustrate a team trying to find itself. The inconsistency has led to a 5-8 record to closeout the nonconference schedule and now a week off before opening up Big Sky Conference play at home against Northern Colorado.

Duft's team relies on its veterans to provide the load of scoring, many of which play on the guard line and the wings.

Dillon Jones, a 6-foot-6 third-year sophomore, is the leader on the court and often provides the bulk of the points each night. Coming into the game against BYU, Jones led the team in scoring with 14.1 points per game. Guard Steven Verplancken is the only other player averaging double digits with 12.6 points per night.

Outside of Jones and Verplancken, the other three starters struggle to consistently make shots. Guards Keith Dinwiddie and Dyson Koehler, and center Alex Tew usually make up the rest of the starting lineup for Duft's squads, with Tew as the highest scorer of the group with just 6 points per game.

Against BYU, Jones led the team with 18 points on an effective 7-of-11 shooting, though Tew had somewhat of a breakout game with 12 points on 5-of-7 shot attempts. No other player scored more than 8 points on a night when the team shot 39.6% from the field.

Yet the Wildcats have managed to keep themselves in games with a quality defense despite its occasional offensive flaws. In BYU's win over Weber State, the Cougars shot a worse percentage from the field than the Wildcats at 38.5%, but the difference in the game came down to free throws.

The visitors had multiple chances to overtake the Cougars and pull off another big win following an upset defeat over Utah State on Monday night. But like most of the seven previous losses on the season, the Wildcats' offense stalled in crucial moments — and even missed open looks that would have put the Wildcats ahead.

Members of the team who hit big shots in the win over the Aggies went cold at important times in the comeback attempt against the Cougars.

"I think we were a little dead-legged, and it showed in some of our shooting," Duft said. "But I couldn't be more proud of our guys and the effort they gave. They followed the game plan. I thought we played the game on our terms. We played it how we had to play it to win it, and we just didn't make a couple of those shots at the end that we made against Utah State."

Outside of a couple Division II wins this season — even in the wins — the most Weber State has scored is 77 points in a win over Abilene Christian in the Vegas 4 Tournament. Only counting Division I games, the Wildcats are averaging 63.5 points per game, an amount that will make most contests close.

Going forward, Duft's team will need more consistency from everyone not named Jones — even Verplancken has had his inconsistent moments this season.

Every game now becomes more important as the Wildcats fight for a Big Sky championship — something they haven't done since 2016. The hope is that Duft's team can play like they did in the two big wins over Utah State and Cal Poly in the last week and not like they did at BYU.

The Wildcats have come a long way since the start of the season, and there's still a long way to go before it ends.


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