SAN DIEGO – Weber State made a strong second half rally but it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats lost 68-59 to top seeded Arizona Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Viejas Arena.
Weber State jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead four minutes into the game. WSU led 12-11 with 12:12 to play when Arizona went on a 17-4 run over the next eight minutes to take a 13 point lead at 29-16. Weber State went nearly eight minutes without a field goal late in the half.
Arizona led by 12 at halftime and extended their lead to 21 points midway through the second half but WSU didn’t stop playing. Richaud Gittens and Davion Berry sparked a 19-9 run for WSU that cut the lead to nine points with 4:29 to play. Gittens and Berry had 17 of Weber State’s 19 points in that six minute stretch.
Berry hit a 3-pointer with 2:34 to play to cut the lead to nine points with 2:34 to play but the ‘Cats could not stop Arizona down the stretch.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “It hurts because not a lot of people probably thought it but we came in expecting to win, trying to win. The guys did a tremendous job. We could have folded the tent when they got up by 20 on us but we showed resilience, just like they have all year. This team has come farther than any team I’ve coached since I’ve been here and I’m really, really proud of them.”
Arizona shot 55 percent from the field and held Weber State to 30 percent shooting. WSU outrebounded UA 32-31 and shot 20 of 23 from the free throw line. Arizona had 12 blocked shots.
Senior Davion Berry led the way with 24 points. He was 5 of 20 from the field and a perfect 10 of 10 from the free throw line. Berry finished his career ranking 15th in school history in career scoring with 1,160 points after just two years at Weber State.
Sophomore Joel Bolomboy finished with his Big Sky leading 11th double-double of the season, posting 11 points and 16 rebounds. The 16 rebounds is the most of any player against Arizona this season.
Gittens had 12 points off the bench on 4 of 6 shooting.Arizona (31-4) had four players in double figures, led by Nick Johnson who had 18.
Davion Berry, Byron Fulton, Jordan Richardson and Kyle Tresnak finished their careers at WSU playing in 433 career games with the Wildcats.
“I’ve got four great seniors,” Rahe said. “It wasn’t easy in their time at Weber State. We had some tough, tough losses in conference tournaments and there was a lot of heart break along the way. These kids, they would not give into it. These seniors stayed the course. They believed in themselves. They got us a regular season and tournament championship and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Weber State’s season comes to an end with a 19-12 overall record. The Wildcats competed in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in school history and the first since 2007. Weber State won its 21st Big Sky Conference title in 51 seasons in the conference. Randy Rahe has won four Big Sky titles in eight seasons and became the first coach in conference history to win four Coach of the Year honors.
“I’m excited about our young kids,” Rahe continued. “If you look out there tonight we played quite a few minutes with three freshmen and a sophomore. They’re going to be really great leaders in our program because they’re all made of the right stuff, not just as players but the character, toughness and unselfishness they have, they’re going to be the foundation of our program.”