Idaho St Weber St Basketball

Weber State makes emphatic statement in win over Montana

1 Comment

Montana’s 24-game Big Sky regular season win streak came to a crashing halt on Thursday night as they fell at Weber State by the final score of 87-63.

And the only aspect of this game that should surprise anyone is the margin of victory.

Randy Rahe’s Wildcats controlled proceedings from the start, shooting 58.2% and never trailing in a game they led by as many as 28 points. Kyle Tresnak led the way with 19 points and Weber State thoroughly frustrated Montana’s perimeter tandem of Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar, with the latter scoring just five points and turning the ball over four times before fouling out.

Weber State’s win pulls them to within a game of the Grizzlies in the race for the Big Sky, with the regular season champion receiving the honor of hosting the conference tournament. But unlike last season the Wildcats look more than capable of beating Montana in Missoula if it comes to that, even though last year’s group was led by eventual NBA lottery pick Damian Lillard.

Four players reached double figures tonight and on the season Weber State has three players averaging double figures, with four other players averaging between seven and nine points per contest.

Starters Tresnak, Davion Berry (16 points) and Frank Otis (14) reached double figures with sophomore guard Gelaun Wheelwright adding 14 off the bench. And with Scott Bamforth and Jordan Richardson also capable of putting points on the board, the question of who to take away becomes a tough one to answer for the opposition.

By comparison Montana has three players in Cherry, Jamar and Mathias Ward capable of carrying the load but their supporting cast doesn’t have the depth that Weber State enjoys.

Weber State leads the Big Sky in many of the major statistical categories both offensively and defensively, but that 0-2 weekend in Montana (losing at Montana State two days before dropping a 76-74 decision at Montana on January 26) is the reason why the Wildcats find themselves in the role of chaser with five games remaining.

Having home court in the Big Sky tournament is certainly something Weber State will shoot for in these last five games. But Thursday’s result is a clear indication that the venue for a possible third meeting won’t mean as much as it did last season.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Leave a comment

Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Leave a comment

Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.