Wildcats win physical game against Eagles

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The Weber State University men’s basketball team earned an important win on Saturday night when it knocked off the Eastern Washington University Eagles 84-75 in a physical game.

“They’re the most athletic team in the league,” said WSU Head Coach Randy Rahe. “They’re one of the more talented teams in the league, and they’re one of the more veteran teams in the league . . . I knew this was going to be an absolute fistfight.”

The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead, going up 4-0 two minutes into the game thanks to a jumper by Kyle Tresnak and a layup by Kyle Bullinger.

WSU continued to put the pressure on and forced EWU to take a timeout a minute later. The hot start was met with loud cheers from the fans.

Scott Bamforth proved he had the hot hand for WSU, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to help WSU take a 14-3 lead with 15 minutes left in the half.

At one point in the half, Bamforth scored eight straight points for the Wildcats.

The Eagles fought back and with just under 10 minutes to go in the half, cut the lead to five.

With EWU cutting into the Wildcat lead, Damian Lillard got hot and hit two 3-pointers in a row to give WSU a little breathing room late in the first half.

WSU was sluggish coming out of the half, and Cliff Colimon hit two 3-pointers to spark a 9-0 run for the Eagles. EWU cut into the Wildcat lead, making it 41-39 two minutes into the second half.

Five minutes into the half, EWU was within three points and frustrated the Wildcats with physical play.

Byron Fulton said the team wanted to be tough against the Eagles, who knocked off WSU last season in Ogden.

“Last year, they kind of bullied us,” Fulton said.  “It’s kind of like a rivalry between us, I’d say. We just wanted to focus on defense and rebounding.”

The Wildcats answered and pushed the lead back to 10 with a three from Gelaun Wheelwright with 13 minutes to go in the game.

Throughout the second half, every time WSU made a run, the Eagles would answer back to keep the score tight.

Lillard said the team expected the Eagles to keep the game close and knew they’d have to work hard to get the win.

“It’s a game of spurts,” Lillard said. “They’re a good team, and that’s what we expect from them. We made our run, and they answered. The most important thing is that we stayed calm and came away with the win.”

With eight minutes left to play, Darin Mahoney got the crowd on its feet with a dunk to give the ’Cats a nine-point lead.

Once again, the Eagles fought back, and with four minutes left, EWU cut the Wildcat lead to five.

With 1:50 left to play, Fulton all but sealed the game for WSU. First, Fulton converted a layup to give the Wildcats a 76-69 lead. Then on the ensuing Eagles’ possession, he pulled down a contested rebound for WSU.

The Wildcats will now head to Montana where they will take on Montana State University on Thursday before returning home for the BracketBusters game against the University of Texas-Arlington on Saturday.

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