MORAGA, Calif. (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time in 23 years, the Weber State basketball team has beaten a top-25 opponent, as the Wildcats stun #23 Saint Mary’s Sunday night, 61-57.
Dillon Jones scored a career-high 29 points and had 10 rebounds, and Weber State rallied from 14 down in the second half to knock off the Gaels.
This is Weber State’s first win over a ranked opponent since December, 2000 at Utah.
Jones, a unanimous preseason pick to be MVP in the Big Sky, had nine points as part of a 23-4 run midway through the second half that erased a 49-35 deficit and put the Wildcats (2-0) ahead to stay after they trailed the entire first half.
“Call my bluff if you want but I came in tonight expecting to win,” Jones said. “ After we did the starting lineups I told the team, ’The reason the higher-level teams beat lower-level teams is because they just give them a certain respect. I told (my teammates) we’re not going to give them respect.
“I was almost in tears telling the team that because I emotionally really thought we could win. It’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing to actually do it.”
Aidan Mahaney and Harry Wessels each scored 11 points to pace the Gaels (2-1).
Neither team shot well from the perimeter. Saint Mary’s was 5 of 27 (18.5%) on 3-pointers. Weber State went 6 of 21 (28.6%) beyond the arc.
With several NBA scouts in attendance as well as his brother, Jones picked the perfect night to have his career game. He shot 11 of 20 and overcame five turnovers to lead the Wildcats to the win.
The Wildcats’ victory wasn’t a total surprise. With all five starters back from last season’s team that finished 18-15, Weber State is favored to win the Big Sky.
“The message is just that we are a good team, a good collective group of guys,” Jones said. “We’re not just going to five people respect because of their name. We will be able to show up and play.”
This is the Wildcats first win in five all-time games between the two schools, and it was a big one. While Jones did the chunk of scoring, his teammates kept their cool and chipped away at the leads until they took control.
The Wildcats are 2-0 on the early season and now face three games in Canada this weekend. Weber State will play Garnder-Webb, Yale, and Colgate at the Atlantic Slam this Friday-Sunday in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.