Weber State continued its dominance of Northern Arizona Saturday night in the Walkup Skydome, as the Wildcats scored at will for much of the evening en route to a 87-55 victory.
Hitting 8 of their first 9 shots in the second half, the Wildcats (15-7, 8-2 Big Sky) quickly put the game away after the Lumberjacks (4-20, 1-10) made a small run to close out the first half. Trailing by 20 with 4:38 remaining before halftime, Northern Arizona cut Weber State’s lead down to 12 at the break.
However, it ballooned back up to 29 in the first seven minutes of the half as Ryan Richardson scored a quick five points and Jerrick Harding added 10 during a 22-5 run.
“We didn’t come out and guard them in transition. We let them get some easy baskets in transition early to get their guys going and there was a couple breakdowns,” said Lumberjacks head coach Jack Murphy. “When you get outscored 39-3 at the 3-point line, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Harding, who entered the game leading the Big Sky Conference with 21.5 points per game, finished with a game-high 29 points while shooting 11 of 14 from the field, including 5 of 7 from outside. Dusty Baker matched Harding’s total from 3-point range, hitting 5 of 7 and finishing with 17 points.
“We didn’t defend the 3 well enough and we obviously didn’t make enough 3s on our end,” Murphy said. “We didn’t shoot as many as we usually do, but still 1 for 13, you have got to be better than that when you are trying to compete against one of the top teams in the league.”
Weber State finished 60 percent from the field despite hitting just 2 of 7 in the final four minutes with much of its bench in the game, as nine different Wildcats scored. Richardson added 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Zach Braxton also reached double-digits with 10 points on a perfect 5-of-5 night.
Leading 10-6 through the first five minutes of the game, Weber State pulled ahead by double-digits and remained there the rest of the night thanks to a burst by Harding. Following a pair of 3s, Harding added a fastbreak layup to start a 13-1 run.
The Wildcats, who won by 40 a month ago in Ogden, Utah, added a 16-0 run late in the second half to take a 41-point lead and doubled up the Lumberjacks at 82-41.
While the Lumberjacks shot just 36.5 percent from the field, Torry Johnson turned in his fifth straight double-digit scoring game to lead Northern Arizona. Scoring 17 points, Johnson accounted for nearly a third of the Lumberjacks' scoring in the game while hitting 6 of 9 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line.
Northern Arizona’s defense struggled to contain Weber State, in part due to its inability to recover from turnovers. Despite committing just 12 in the game, under its season average of nearly 16, Northern Arizona allowed Weber State to score 24 points off of the miscues.
“We have 12 turnovers, they have 10. They score 24 points off of them, we score seven. You have to be able to convert from defense to offense,” Murphy said. “Every time we turned the ball over, it was a pick-six, it was a breakout situation where they were able to take advantage.”
While Corey Brown added 10 points and Karl Harris finished with 11, no other Lumberjack connected on more than one shot from the field as JoJo Anderson missed his fourth straight game with a hip injury. Chris Bowling had his struggles continue with a 1-of-7 night and Gino Littles finished 1 of 6, combining for seven points.
“Hopefully this week only having one game on Saturday helps him get his legs back a little bit,” Murphy said. “He has been going hard as a lot of guys have. We will practice Monday, take off again Tuesday and then have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in preparation for Southern Utah and hopefully rejuvenate some of the guys.”
With Southern Utah’s victory over Idaho State Saturday afternoon, Northern Arizona sits two games back of the Thunderbirds and North Dakota Fighting Hawks as well as two and a half games back of the Sacramento State Hornets.