After the disappointing loss to Nevada two nights earlier, the best cure for Weber State's woes was a game against Northern Arizona. Thankfully the Lumberjacks were next on the Wildcats' schedule.
The Wildcats had beaten NAU 24 of 26 times at home, including a 50-point win last year. Although this year's Lumberjack team was supposed to be improved, they had lost seven of 11, including a 73-point loss to LSU.While the Wildcats' victory margin Saturday night didn't quite approach the above proportions, they did breeze to a 96-61 victory before 4,740 fans at the Dee Events Center.
"We were a little more alert, a little more intense tonight," said Weber Coach Ron Abegglen, who had a lot more to smile about then he had Thursday night. "We were better against the zone. I thought we passed the ball and caught the ball better tonight. And I thought our press really hurt them."
Indeed. The Wildcats' pressure defense forced NAU into 31 turnovers on the night. At the other end, Weber was only credited with 8 turnovers, just 1 in the first half.
"Our press really worked well tonight," said Weber's Al Hamilton, who led all scorers with 21 points. "We had a long team meeting yesterday and decided we had to come out and take it to them the best we could."
Besides Hamilton, the Wildcats got 17 points from David Baldwin and 10 apiece from Anthony Steward and Ryan Kaps.
After a quick start, the Wildcats fell into one of their lulls that have hurt them in recent games. They went from a 13-4 lead to a 20-20 tie late in the first half. It was still 22-22 at the 3:37 mark when the Wildcats came alive.
Hamilton hit a baseline jumper, Anthony McGowan slammed one home, Kaps made a layup and Mike Sivulich scored his only points of the game on a 3-pointer. Kaps followed his own shot and Hamilton sank a jumper at the buzzer to make it 35-22.
During the 13-point Weber run, the Lumberjacks commited five turnovers and missed a couple of shots from the field and the free throw line.
In the second half, Hamilton got hot with 9 quick points as the Wildcats charged out to a 48-31 lead. When the margin reached 24 at 62-38, NAU Coach Harold Merritt decided he had seen enough.
After watching one of his players get mugged in the lane without a call, he charged referee Dan Niksich at midcourt and unleashed a torrent of obscenities that could be heard halfway up the arena. Of course, he was quickly ejected from the game and Weber's Baldwin added seven points to his total in just 12 seconds as he canned four technical free throws and scored a three-point play on the ensuing possession.
Up 72-41, Abegglen inserted five new players, four guards and a freshman center and that group pushed the lead to as high as 43 at 91-48.
Every Wildcat player, played at least eight minutes and everyone scored. Freshman center Jeff Lentfer nearly matched his season total for points, with 10 and he pulled down 11 rebounds.
"That's fun to have all the guys play and to have a little success," said Abegglen.
Weber goes back on the road for a pair of games at Boise State Thursday and Idaho Saturday.