Ending the season with a win and a loss

After a season-ending loss to Montana State in double overtime, Jones falls to his knees.

After advancing to the semifinals with a 70–64 victory over Sacramento State University on March 6, Weber State University’s men’s basketball team lost in double-overtime to Montana State University 60–58 on March 7 in Boise, Idaho.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our group and what we accomplished,” Wildcat head coach Eric Duft said.

Weber State vs. Sacramento State

Opening the tournament against Sacramento State, Weber State made a strong first impression on offense to start the game. Wildcat forward Dillon Jones scored the first points of the night with a step-back 2-pointer from the corner. Following was a 3-pointer from guard KJ Cunningham and a Jones jump shot near the baseline.

“Having a great start like that just helped our team just build that momentum,” Cunningham said.

With Weber State up 7–0, Hornet center Callum McRae scored inside to put Sacramento State on the board. However, the Wildcats’ attack didn’t stop as forward Dyson Koehler and guard Zahir Porter were able to score, pushing the lead to 11–2.

Fighting back, Hornet guard Cameron Wilbon scored during an inside drive. Guard Zach Chappell was then able to hit a 3-pointer to cut Sacramento State’s deficit to 4 points.

With 13 minutes left in the first half, Weber State guard Steven Verplancken Jr. hit a 3-pointer off an assist from Jones to start a 10-point run for the Wildcats. Down 14 points, Hornet guard Gianni Hunt made two 3-pointers and McRae made two inside shots to end the run.

Looking to stop Sacramento State from coming back, Cunningham made 4 points in 30 seconds. Jones then scored inside with five minutes left in the half to put Weber State up 33–21.

Despite points from Hornet guard Quadry Adams and McRae, the Wildcats were able to expand their lead to 16 points before the end of the half.

“I think we didn’t follow the game plan to start the game,” Sacramento State head coach David Patrick said. “The one thing I’ve stressed all year is dominating the backboards. I think that’s an effort area. I addressed that at half time, and I really think that side of it got us back in the game.”

Looking to close the gap in the final half, Hornet forward Akol Mawein scored inside off a turnaround jump shot. A battle between two guards, Chappell scored 5 points and Verplancken 6 within the same minute of play.

While the second half was more competitive, it didn’t become a single-digit game until the last two minutes. After Wilbon scored inside to cut Sacramento State’s deficit down to 10 points, he scored on a fast break to make the score 66–58 with just over a minute on the clock.

Nearing the end of the game, McRae made a layup and drew contact from center Alex Tew, leading to an and-1 opportunity. Converting on the attempt, the score became 66–61 with 47 seconds left.

Trying to slow down the clock, the Hornets began to draw fouls. Free throws from Cunningham and Jones gave Weber State the breathing room they needed to end the game on top.

“Overall, really good effort by our team,” Duft said. “Thought we competed on the glass. That was going to be a big key for us and just a good performance all the way around from start to finish.”


Weber State vs. Montana State

Getting the Bobcats game started, Verplancken scored from beyond the arc to give the Wildcats a 3–0 lead. The Bobcats then responded by going on a 6–0 run that included a 3-pointer of their own and a layup in the paint by guard Raequan Battle.

With the tempo picking up during the first half, Weber State went on an 11–2 run to capture the lead. Fighting their way back, guard Robert Ford III hit a jumper to end the run, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 25–21. A 3-pointer from Battle with 40 seconds left made it a 1-point game heading into the second.

A defensive battle on both sides, the largest lead of the second half was 5 points. Fought from the line, both teams combined for 17 points from the charity stripe.

With 4:16 on the clock, Jones made two free throws to give Weber State a 47–45 lead. Bobcat forward Great Osobor then responded with a layup to tie the game. With 4 calls on him already, Tew fouled out trying to defend Osobor, who was able to make one of his two free throws.

Finding his way to the line, Jones was able to draw contact off Montana State forward Jubrile Belo with just over a minute left in the second half. Jones made the first free throw to tie the game, but missed the second to secure the lead.

With neither side able to score, the teams went into overtime tied at 48.

Battle started the scoring during overtime with a jumper. Verplancken then responded by scoring in the paint. Continuing the pace of the second half, the first overtime was played at the foul line.

Koehler got to the line first off a foul from Osobor. Drawing contact from Wildcat center Handje Tamba, Belo got to the line to tie the game. Both teams combined for only 8 points during the five-minute period.

With both teams tied at 52, the game continued into second overtime. Outside, the clock was nearing midnight.

Getting to the line, Bobcat guard Darius Brown II drew contact off Tamba to foul out the center. Jones was then able to get to the line off a foul from Brown.

While Jones tied the score, Duft put in a small-ball lineup by subbing forward Daniel Rouzan and putting in guard Junior Ballard.

After a 3-pointer from Battle gave Montana State the lead, Weber State fought back, leading to inside points from Ballard to tie the game.

Inbounding the ball with 13 seconds on the clock, Montana State looked to Battle to end the game.

“I think it was after the first OT, Darius [Brown], I saw him shake, and he got a wide-open 3, but during that, I recognized that who was ever guarding me and who was ever guarding JB [Belo] was kind of shading to him,” Battle said. “I was like ‘Dude, you set this chip, it’s going to be wide open.’ I told Darius ‘you get in the paint. Throw it up. I’ll finish it.'”

Scoring the final points of the game, Battle caught an alley-oop from Brown to put Montana State up 60–58. Trying to retaliate with just over a second on the clock, Verplancken attempted a 3-pointer off an inbound but was blocked.

While the teams shook hands, Jones and Bobcat head coach Danny Sprinkle were seen yelling at each other.

Jones said the altercation started when Sprinkle tried to shake his hand. During last year’s semi final match, in which the Wildcats lost to the Bobcats 69–66 on March 11, 2022, Sprinkle told Jones after the game that he would be the best player in the Big Sky conference.

After not receiving the Big Sky player of the year award, Jones believed that Sprinkle didn’t vote for him.

“We just had a little exchange but nothing personal,” Jones said. “I know coach Sprinkle. He good people.”

Sprinkle stated after the game that he did vote for Jones as player of the year, an award given this year to Eastern Washington University’s Steele Venters.

Montana State will be advancing to the NCAA tournament. Weber State’s 2023-2024 schedule has not been released.