The No. 16 seeded Weber State Wildcats nearly accomplished the unthinkable on Friday, March 21, narrowly losing to No. 1 seed Arizona 68-59 in the Round of 64. But what the Wildcats did to get within striking distance of what many consider to be the odds-on favorite to win it all was nothing short of remarkable. When you consider that Weber State shot just 30 percent for the game and Arizona hit on 55 percent -- more so.
In order to play with the big boys, you’ve got to play huge. And that the Wildcats in purple did -- despite eventually succumbing to a bigger, stronger, faster and more defensive Arizona team that looked every bit the contender most thought. Here is how tiny Weber State stayed with mighty Arizona, earning the praise of everyone in the process.
Joel Bolomboy cleaned the glass
Bolomboy has been a critical part of the Wildcats' play all season. The sophomore from Fort Worth, Texas has only averaged nine points -- but he also averaged 11 rebounds per game.
But on Friday he was huge for Weber State -- giving folks a glimpse into how special he will be in the next two years. He had 11 points and 16 rebounds against Arizona and played an Iron-man like 39 minutes.
Kyle Tresnak found other ways to help
Tresnak scored 27 points in the Big Sky Conference tournament championship game, getting the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament. But at March Madness nothing is guaranteed and Tresnak's shot wasn't falling (he was 1-for-6 from the floor) against Arizona.
So he found other ways to help Weber, such as getting three steals and two rebounds. Most important was his hustle and physical play inside which allowed Davion Berry and Richaud Gittens more room to shoot from outside.
Richaud Gittens made big plays
Gittens is a freshman from Tempe, Arizona who hasn’t played like a freshman at all. In fact, judging the plays he made Friday against Arizona’s athletic backcourt -- including some athletic defensive plays of his own that he turned into baskets -- you’ve probably only seen a glimpse of what Gittens has to offer.
Friday, he had 12 points against a team with several NBA-bound players -- and against a team from his home state.
Davion Berry was shades of Lillard
Fact: Damian Lillard never played in the NCAA Tournament. His Oakland understudy -- though the duo never played together at Weber -- was Berry, a player that Lillard starred with in their AAU days in the Bay Area.
On Friday, Berry did the one thing in his career that Lillard, now an NBA All-Star guard, never experienced in his days in Ogden. He tasted March Madness.
Berry lived up to the hype, scoring 24 points on 4-for-8 shooting from three point range. This during his worst shooting performance in some time. (He went 5-for-20 from the field.)
Coach Randy Rahe proved he can coach
The architect of Weber State's masterful game plan was head coach Randy Rahe, a longtime assistant under Stew Morrill at Utah State -- and Ray Giacometti at Utah -- before taking over at WSU.
Though many believe Rahe is destined to follow in Stew’s footsteps and could soon become the coach at Utah State, he has done a yeoman’s job at Weber.
His never-give-up mantra served these kids well -- and helped the purple Wildcats to nearly pull off the first-ever 16 v 1 NCAA Tournament upset.