Long Weber State road trip ends with 88-54 loss to Northern Colorado

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OGDEN — Weber State came into Monday night playing their last game of a four-game road swing and a chance to put on a show in front of a national audience on late-night ESPNU.

Northern Colorado, however, had just won two conference games all season coming into Monday night, which included a loss to the Wildcats in Ogden on Dec. 29. But it was the visiting Wildcats who looked like a team on their last legs while the hometown Bears looked like a team that hadn't lost a game yet this season.

The Wildcats dropped the game 88-54 on Monday night.

Weber State (12-12, 7-4 Big Sky) was just two days removed from one of its longest, most grueling games of the season: a double-overtime win over Idaho State on the road. Meanwhile, Northern Colorado (8-16, 3-9 Big Sky) was on a three-game losing streak and had lost four out of the last five games.

Still, the Bears came out from the start and shot the lights out of the gym, and the Wildcats couldn't get a shot to fall from anyone.

Northern Colorado was led by forward Riley Abercrombie, who went 7-of-8 from the field and all his shots coming from behind the 3-point line, for a total of 21 points. He was followed closely by guards Dalton Knecht and Daylen Kountz, who each contributed 16 points apiece.

The home team got out to a fast 7-2 lead, thanks to a couple of offensive rebounds that led to second-chance points. The Wildcats — normally a solid rebounding team — got outrebounded by the Bears 42-31 despite hauling in more offensive rebounds.

And things didn't get better after Alex Tew's opening bucket for the Wildcats. The team went scoreless for about seven minutes of game play before guard KJ Cunningham knocked down a tough turnaround shot in the lane. Near the midway point of the first half, Weber State shot 2-of-10 from the field and found themselves down 16-4.

The Wildcats missed shots that were so wide open that there wasn't a defender within five feet of the shooter; on the other hand, the Bears made contested shot after contested shot, especially from behind the 3-point line, where the team shot 55% on 22 attempts on the night.

Northern Colorado also took advantage of the fatigue Weber State showed. The Bears had an extra zip in their steps, and their guards routinely broke past Wildcats defenders; the combination of driving and cutting led to a lot of easy points in the paint for the home team, and Northern Colorado scored 74 of their 88 total points on 3-pointers and points in the paint.

By halftime, Weber State trailed 35-21 and there were still hope the Wildcats could find a way to get back in the game. But it would have taken a monumental second half effort to overcome the hot shooting from Northern Colorado.

The bolt of energy the Wildcats needed seemed to go to the Bears as they opened up the second half on an 8-0 run, thanks to a couple more 3-pointers. Guard Steven Verplancken, normally one of the Wildcats' best 3-point shooters, got his team on the board with his first long-range shot of the game but finished with just 9 points on 4-of-11 shooting and just 1-of-5 from behind the arc.

The Bears were already on their way to a rout before forward Abercrombie put the cherry on the top. With a little less than seven minutes left to go in the game and the outcome practically decided, Abercrombie knocked down a 3-pointer on three straight possessions for his team and came up just short on the fourth attempt for his first and only miss of the night.

Offense was a slog all night for Weber State, who was led, once again, by Dillon Jones, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, which is good for his 14th double-double of the season. Jones, however, only shot 4-of-12 from the field and went just 1-of-7 from the 3-point line. The only other Wildcats player to score in double figures was Dyson Koehler, who finished with 10 points.

The road trip finished on a sour note, but head coach Eric Duft's team returns home. The team won't have long to regroup, however, before Weber State welcomes Montana State to Ogden on Thursday.


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Thomas Gordon


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