Weber State Coach Denny Huston is still pondering a starting lineup, but Friday night in the Dee Center, he found a couple of players who need to be in the front five.
It's where to put them that's the question now, and, following Weber's close - yes, close - 67-51 victory over Division II Cal State-Northridge, Huston now has nine days to figure that out.The Wildcats don't play again until an exhibition game Dec. 11 and don't have a game that counts until Dec. 14.
Friday night, Huston started junior transfer Tony Nicholas, 6-foot-4, at the big guard position, and he started redshirt junior Aaron Bell at one forward.
Mike Sivulich, a 21-year-old freshman out of Bonneville High, didn't start, but he saw 25 minutes playing time at point guard. That's five times as much as he'd played in Weber's first two games.
The contributions from Sivulich and Nicholas pushed Weber over the top and helped the Wildcats break open a 41-39 game.
"Sivulich was Mr. Steady," said Huston. He didn't make normal, dumb freshman plays."
"He doesn't play like a freshman at all," said Nicholas. "He's really like a senior because he's older. He's going to help us down the road."
"Nicholas," said Huston, "was very solid and made big-time rebounds when crunch time came."
Huston's problem is that he's got more off-guards than he can play, only one true point guard in the freshman, Sivulich, and Nicholas, who can double at small forward to move Bell, Anthony McGowan and Chris Metke around. Finding the right spots at the right times is the puzzle.
Nicholas, however, was certain that starting's better for him than not starting and that the No. 2 guard position is his natural place. Of small forward, he said, "I like it a little bit," and he played some point guard in high school, but that's not natural, either, he said.
Nicholas said he had trouble turning himself back on after being a backup the first two games. With the start, "You turn it on in warmups."
Nicholas really lit it up in the second half after a six-point, two-rebound first half. He finished with a me high of 19 points and seven assists and a Weber-high seven rebounds.
Perhaps more importantly, he scored seven straight points from 7:02 until 4:46 of the second half, and he made the key rebounds Huston mentioned in that time frame as well.
Cal Northridge, which becomes Division I next season, pulled to within 41-39 with 8:40 left when Weber missed a shot, a long rebound went to the Matadors and Sandy Brown dropped in a layup and resultant foul shot at 9:01, then rebounded a Weber miss and got the ball to Bill Mazurie for a layin and another foul.
Mazurie missed his free throw, Weber's Jerry McIntosh rebounded, and Metke hit a 16-foot jumper for a 43-39 margin.
Then Nicholas scored his seven straight for a 50-43 command.
The game turned into a free-throw contest after that.
"We came back. I like that," said CSUN Coach Pete Cassidy, in his 19th season with the Matadors. But, he said, "We missed the free throw for the three-point play and just slid."
The smaller Matadors outrebounded Weber 36-33. "I was surprised at that," said Cassidy.
Neither team shot well, though Weber went from 43 percent the first half to 50 percent for the game. The first-half percentage was poor since most of Weber's shots were from the eight- to 10-foot range. Northridge struggled to 32 percent for the first half and 36 percent for the game. Cassidy attributed his team's shooting to Weber's defense - "They play a good, solid defense in terms of intelligence, positioning and tenacity," he said - and to a young club's troubles early in the season.
"Pete Cassidy makes you play defense," said Huston, adding he was pleased his players were able to concentrate defensively for the long periods of time that CSUN moved the ball around the perimeters.