Steven Verplancken's last-second shot propels Weber State past Montana

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OGDEN — Weber State forward Dillon Jones drove to the basket as he looked for a chance to tie the game in the waning moments of the game. He was fouled with 4.9 seconds to go.

The 88% free-throw shooter went to the line with a chance to tie the game with a 2-point deficit to the Montana Grizzlies. Jones — having played all 40 minutes of the game — missed the first free throw before draining the second, but the Wildcats still trailed 57-56.

While a Montana victory seemed all but certain, Weber State disagreed. Dyson Koehler stole the Grizzlies' inbound near the halfcourt logo, dribbled once and found the team's leading 3-point shooter Steven Verplancken who knocked down the game-winner from the right wing.

With one second left, the Grizzlies put up a prayer of a shot that missed everything, and Weber State pulled out the hard-fought conference win, 59-57.

Verplancken's 12 points were second on the team, but none of those points were more important than his second 3-pointer make of the night.

Weber State moves to 8-9 on the season and 3-1 in Big Sky play, which puts the Wildcats in a tie for third place in the conference. Meanwhile, Montana has an identical season record of 8-9 but falls to 2-3 in the Big Sky.

Although Verplancken won the game with his last-second heroics, Weber State was carried by Jones. The sophomore forward set a career-high with 21 rebounds, which included 12 in the first half. He also led the team with 17 points and carried the offense on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.

Jones got the scoring started in the game with his first 3-pointer to help his team get off to a quick 9-0 start. It didn't take long before the Grizzlies went on a 16-2 run of their own, and midway through the first half Montana led 16-11. But the Wildcats fought their way back and led at halftime 28-25.

Jones' contribution on the glass was big in the game, where in the first half alone he pulled down 12 defensive rebounds — the entire Montana team had 13 rebounds. It seemed that every Grizzlies miss was corralled by the Weber State forward.

The Grizzlies got off to a quick start in the second half and scored 7 straight points to help them regain the lead over the Wildcats. From there, the teams traded blows until the very end before Verplancken's biggest shot of the night won the game for the visitors.

Offense was a grind for both teams in the contest. Weber State shot 39% from the field and 42% from behind the arc, while Montana shot slightly better from the field at 41% but worse from the 3-point line at 33%.

The offensive struggles could be attributed to a mixture of quality defense but also missed shots. Coming into the game, Weber State needed to score 70 points to win games. In games when the Wildcats have scored 70 points or more, they are 7-0 and 0-9 if they failed to reach the marker.

For a young team looking to make an impact in the Big Sky, a grind-it-out win like Thursday night will boost confidence and lead to bigger and better things down the line. Weber State will make the short drive from Missoula to Bozeman to take on Montana State on Saturday.

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