(File photo)Ogden -- The Weber State Wildcats (8-6, 2-0 Big Sky) overcame a sluggish start to ring in the new year in victorious fashion with a convincing win over conference foe, Montana State (7-6, 2-1 Big Sky), 75-62.
Kyle Bullinger scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats, who found themselves up only one at halftime, 37-36, after eight first half lead changes.
All we've done for three days is work on defense and rebounding. (The sluggish first half) was kind of disheartening to be honest with you.
–WSU Head Coach Randy Rahe
"I thought we were sluggish. We didn't fight hard enough, said Weber State Head Coach Randy Rahe. "You could tell we gave up 57 percent in the first half and were down five on the rebounding. All we've done for three days is work on defense and rebounding. It was kind of disheartening to be honest with you."
After some encouraging words from Rahe, the second half belonged to Weber State where those three-days of practice paid off.
The Wildcats used a stifling defense to force the Bobcats to shoot only 30 percent in the second half and tripled their first half rebounding totals to finish with 43 rebounds, 14 on the offensive end.
"It was our defense and our rebounding in the second half that is why we were able to pull away at the end," said Bullinger, who was joined by four other Wildcats in double-digit scoring.
Nick Hansen had 15 points and made 9-of-10 free throws in the final 1:21 to help seal the victory. Steve Panos had 14 points and five rebounds, point guard Damian Lillard had 12 points and Franklin Session got another double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"I can't say enough about our teammates, they are just the most unselfish guys ever," said Panos. "They don't care who gets the buckets, we'll make the extra pass just as long as it's going in. It just shows the depth of our team, any person on any given night can come out and pick up the slack. I really like that about our team. If someone has a cold night we have several other players that can come in and pick up."
"That's why you have a team. They try to take one guy out, someone is going to have to step up and we had two or three guys do that tonight."
Marquis Navarre led the Bobcats with 14 points, while Bobby Howard and Danny Piepoli each had 13.
Both Rahe and his players blamed the Christmas break for the sluggish start.
"It looked like post-Christmas basketball after about eight days off. I didn't feel like either team was really flowing out there great, to be honest with you. A lot of the game was ugly," said Rahe. "I think that's due to having eight days off and both teams were in the same boat."
Despite the "ugly" win, Weber State will take it.
"In conference games you just got to find a way to win. You don't care if their ugly (or) pretty. It doesn't matter. You just try to win and forget about it and move on to the next one," added Rahe.
That next one will be Saturday night in Ogden against Montana. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.