Game #9-200: Weber State Wildcats at Portland State VikingsDecember 22, 2012 10:35 pm
After coming home from my first game of the day
, I rested a while, then headed downtown to see Portland State and Weber State in the first weekend of Big Sky Conference action. One of the nice things about the PSU campus is that it's close to my house, the parking meters turn off at 7:00, a half hour before the game, and the game against Oregon State notwithstanding there's no trouble walking up and buying a ticket the night of the game. This is a good and bad thing, of course. When I walked into the arena about 15 minutes before tipoff the general admission sections were largely empty, and still were at the start of the game. It was a similar situation in the reserved sections, except for the season ticket holders scattered throughout.. Even when the Blazers aren't playing the same night (they were tonight), both mid-majors in Portland struggle to draw fans.
While I hadn't decided to go the Duck game until a couple days before, at the start of the season I had circled this game as one to watch. Randy Rahe's Weber teams are always very good and usually contenders for the Big Sky championship. Last year they had Damian Lillard, the conference MVP and one of the nation's top scorers, but even without him it's likely either the Wildcats or the Montana Grizzlies taking the NCAA bid in March. Weber's non-conference record of 4-3 may not seem like much but it's second best in a league that's gone 14-60 (.189) against the rest of Divsion I this year, and they are the only team in the RPI top 100.
For as much as Big Sky teams are pushed around in the early season, in my experience they play each other very closely and wins are always hard earned. When WSU began by scoring on 5 of its first 6 possessions to take a 13-4 lead, though, it looked like Weber might be on its way to a 2-0 Big Sky start. The points came from four different Wildcats, too, a sign of their depth and balanced offense. The Vikings, however, used some balanced scoring of their own to come all the way back and take the lead with 9 minutes to go in the half.
At halftime I was happy to find Greg Crawford, who's been covering basketball in Portland for many years, and his friend Terry. He's enthusiastic about the game and watches every team from Oregon and Oregon State down to the NAIA schools I wrote about
. In fact, last season he introduced himself after a Warner Pacific game because he recognized me as the trumpet player in the Portland band. I also found out he saw some of my 800 Games Project recaps and enjoyed them. I was glad to be able to see the second half with him and Terry and talk about the game as it happened.
The second half became a tough, physical affair I've often seen in Big Sky games. There were technical fouls on each team minutes apart. PSU's Aaron Moore helped keep the lead in the four- to six-point range for most of the half. Moore is a JC transfer new to the Vikings and they've needed his contributions as this is a season of transition for them after graduating their two biggest contributors. His 19 point, 10 rebound double-double might have keyed a runaway second half. But Weber shot an excellent 55% from the field with four players finishing in double figures, keeping the Vikings from putting the game away. Their ability to hang around paid off with 4 and half minutes to go. With Weber down four Gelaun Wheelwright drew a flagrant foul (the correct call, I might add) as he made a fast break layup. The two free throws tied the score. Weber would keep the ball on the flagrant foul and seconds later a Jordan Richardson superhoop put the Wildcats up three. The seven-point swing also shifted the momentum as PSU spent the rest of the second half chasing Weber. They did catch up to them to force overtime, but they had let their best chance get away. Weber's veterans showed their poise and experience as Kyle Tresnak and Scott Bamforth scored seven of WSU's 10 points in the OT to win 73-69. The game went back and forth and was tight up to the end, the way I like basketball when it doesn't involve the Pilots. It was the complete opposite of the Houston Baptist-Oregon blowout I saw that afternoon and I'll definitely remember it longer than the early game.
What stands out to me about Weber State the most is how the entire team contributes, as I noted above. Bamforth and Richardson can shoot superhoops and had 13 and 14 points respectively. Guard Davion Berry had 7 assists. On the boards Joel Bolomboy and Frank Otis had 8 rebounds each despite six points between them. It's going to be hard for most of the Big Sky to stop Weber when stopping one player is not enough. In this win they showed the real nature of basketball as a team game.
WEBER STATE 73, at PORTLAND STATE 69
WEBER STATE 6-3 (2-0) -- D. Berry 5-10 1-2 12; S. Bamforth 4-9 2-2 13; J. Richardson 5-8 0-0 14; F. Otis 2-3 0-0 4; K. Tresnak 6-9 0-0 12; J. Bolomboy 1-2 0-1 2; G. Wheelwright 5-8 3-4 14; J. Hajek 0-1 0-0 0; R. Williams 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 29-53 6-9 73.
PORTLAND STATE 3-6 (1-1) -- L. McMullan 4-11 2-2 10; A. Moore 8-12 3-6 19; R. Parker 7-16 4-5 18; M. Harthun 3-4 2-2 8; D. Winston Jr. 1-5 4-5 7; G. Winston 2-7 0-0 5; B. Cataldo 1-2 0-0 2; M. Harvey 0-0 0-0 0; M. Whitmore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-57 15-20 69.
Three-point goals: WEB 9-19 (S. Bamforth 3-8; J. Richardson 4-5; D. Berry 1-3; G. Wheelwright 1-3), POST 2-2 (D. Winston 1-1; G. Winston 1-1); Rebounds: WEB 30 (F. Otis 8), POST 23 (A. Moore 10); Assists: WEB 18 (D. Berry 7), POST 14 (L. McMullan 7); Total Fouls -- WEB 15, POST 14; Fouled Out: WEB-None; POST-None.