With NBA prospect Joel Bolomboy leading the way, Weber State held off a spirited Sacramento State comeback to prevail 85-74 Saturday night at The Nest.
The loss snapped the Hornets’ 11-game Big Sky Conference home winning streak that began in 2014.
Sacramento State didn’t go quietly. The Hornets, trailing by 16 points with 6:36 to play, closed to within 76-70 on freshman Jeff Wu’s three-pointer with 3:11 to play before Weber State pulled away again.
Eight NBA scouts were among the announced crowd of 898 to watch Bolomboy, an agile 6-foot-9 junior forward, showcase his skills. He has been projected as a second-round pick in the next NBA draft.
Bolomboy, the NCAA Division I’s No. 2 rebounder entering the game, didn’t disappoint in leading the Wildcats (13-5, 5-0 Big Sky) to their eighth consecutive victory. He topped Weber State with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Junior guard Jeremy Senglin scored 15 points as the Wildcats shot 57 percent from the field (28 of 49) and 50 percent from three-point range (11 of 22).
Sophomores Justin Strings and Marcus Graves may have opened some eyes, too, for Sac State (8-8, 1-4). Strings, a forward, had a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Graves, a guard, had 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
Weber State is a traditional power in the Big Sky. The Wildcats have won 21 Big Sky titles – the most in league history – and have been to the NCAA Tournament 15 times.
“They are the class of the league,” Sac State coach Brian Katz said. “You pick your poison with them. They have the inside, they have the outside.”
The Hornets have struggled on the boards this season but battled the Big Sky rebounding leaders almost even. Weber State had just a 30-29 advantage and was held to six offensive boards.
But the Wildcats sizzled from beyond the arc while the Hornets could only make 2 of 10 from long distance. The Hornets also had 14 turnovers, which led to 21 Weber State points.
“We told them at halftime (Weber State led 40-35), don’t let them rebound, guard the three-point line and take care of the ball,” Katz said. “We did only one of the three.”
Fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps missed his fourth consecutive game with a quad injury. He had a streak of 75 starts and 104 games played before the injury. Katz isn’t sure if the former Pleasant Grove High School star will be able to play in the Hornets’ next game Saturday against Portland State at The Nest.
“We hope for the best and to get him back sooner rather than later,” Katz said. “He’s a tremendous player. We obviously miss him. … But our attitude is we still have a team. We have to get better. The silver lining can be that we are developing some other guys.”
Strings and Graves are developing into stars after playing sparingly as freshmen. Strings leads the Hornets in scoring at 14 points a game and Graves is second at 13.4 points. Graves had his fourth game of 20 points or more, and his 23 points against Weber State was one short of his career high.
Strings, who has moved into a starting role with Demps out, has scored in double figures a team-best 14 times, including 10 in a row. The 6-6 Strings held his own on the boards and offensively around the rim against Bolomboy and the Wildcats’ 6-9 center, Zach Braxton.
“Team comes first,” Strings said. “Having a game like that, I felt we grew a lot as a team and we can learn from this game. But no individual feat is worth as much as a win.”
Saturday’s game wasn’t nearly as exciting for Sac State fans as the last time the Hornets played host to Weber State.
In that 2014 game, Dylan Garrity hit a 75-footer at the overtime buzzer to beat the Wildcats 78-75. That shot became an internet sensation, and Sac State garnered huge national attention.
The shot was dubbed the “Hail Garrity” and stopped a 12-game losing streak against Weber State that dated back six years.