Weber State falls short in effort to knock off undefeated Eastern Washington

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OGDEN — His name is Angelo Allegri, but his nickname might as well be "The Dagger."

Eastern Washington's star forward proved to be too much for Weber State as he led his team to a 75-71 win over the Wildcats on Saturday. Whenever the visiting team pulled things close, Allegri had the answer.

Allegri pulled out all the stops and was one of, if not, the key reason the Eagles (16-7, 10-0 Big Sky) defeated the Wildcats (11-11, 6-3 Big Sky). While Weber State's offense kept the game close with big buckets of their own in the final minutes of the game, Eastern Washington's man responded every time.

The star forward finished the game with a team-high 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting, which included 6-of-8 from behind the 3-point line. He finished the game by making all seven of his final shots, with none bigger than his final 3-pointer with less than a minute to go in the game.

Weber State guard Junior Ballard cut Eastern Washington's lead to two after a long, straightaway 3-pointer of his own. Weber State head coach Eric Duft called a quick timeout, and the Wildcats delivered an exceptional defensive stand and forced a difficult 3-point shot from the Eagles' Ethan Price.

But the home team corralled the rebound and gave themselves a second chance to extend the lead.

With 25 seconds remaining, Allegri dribbled the ball around a screen, stepped back to create some space, and canned a fading-away 3-pointer that put his team up 73-68.

While the Wildcats responded with a bucket from Dillon Jones and a free throw after a foul, it wasn't enough; the Eagles held on at the free-throw line to win the contest and stay undefeated in conference play.

Both teams started the game a little sluggish, and by the first media timeout the teams were tied 2-2. It took time for both offenses to get into the flow of things, which was a credit to both defenses. The biggest differences between the two teams in the first half were rebounds and 3-point shooting.

For the game, Eastern Washington outrebounded Weber State 36-22, somewhat surprising given the Wildcats' knack for pulling down boards. The Eagles also collected nine offensive rebounds in the game, which led to 17 second-chance points, as opposed to just 4 second-chance points for the Wildcats.

The teams hung with each other for most of the first half despite each side going cold the last few minutes. Both sides had scoring droughts of four or more minutes until the last few seconds of the half when Eastern Washington's Steel Venters hit a 3-pointer followed by Weber State's Zahir Porter draining one of his own at the buzzer.

The Eagles led at halftime 32-27.

Coming out of the break, the Wildcats scored 9 straight points to regain the lead, and from there it was a back-and-forth game the rest of the way.

While Allegri's heroics came later in the game, it seemed the entire Eagles team was capable of answering the shots by Weber State. Whether the Wildcats took the lead or brought things close, Eastern Washington got a big shot from one of their players.

Despite the slow, cold moments for both offenses in the first half, each team shot the ball well in this game. Weber State finished the game shooting 49% from the field, 37.5% from the 3-point line and 75% from the free-throw line.

Ballard hit one of the biggest shots of the second half when he knocked down his second of three 3-pointers in the game and was fouled at the same time. He converted the 4-point play and kept the Eagles' lead to just 2 points at the time.

As the game progressed, the Wildcats made some sloppy plays in crunch time. For such a strong defensive team, Weber State performed well on most possessions and forced a lot of difficult shots from Eastern Washington.


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Thomas Gordon


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