Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
OGDEN — It could be called an ugly win, or just another way of how a good team survives an off night.
Regardless, the weary-looking BYU Cougars were elated to leave the Dee Events Center on Tuesday night with a 72-66 victory over a short-handed Weber State squad that they just couldn't shake.
"I think the guys really just kind of gutted it out," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "We just made big stops when we had to."
What makes the win even more satisfying is that the No. 23 Cougars got the victory despite shooting only 37 percent from the floor and hitting only 7 of 26 shots from 3-point range.
"We were able to get the win and that's what a good team does," Cougar guard Jimmer Fredette said. "I don't think we've put a great game together yet where everyone's shooting great, but we've been finding ways to win. I don't think we've necessarily hit our stride like we would want to, but I think we're going to."
As Fredette said, the Cougars (11-1) never really found a rhythm offensively. But they survived a cold-shooting game by not allowing the Wildcats (6-5) to shoot much better. In fact, until late in the game, Weber State (playing without injured star Damian Lillard) was actually shooting worse. A late flurry of 3-pointers improved Weber State's shooting percentage to 38 percent and gave the Wildcats several chances to still win the game late.
"I think we put a pretty good scare into them," Weber State guard Lindsey Hughey said.
After the Cougars had taken a 17-point first-half lead, despite opening the game on 1 of 9 shooting, the Wildcats cut the margin down to 35-23 at the break. A big reason for Weber State's struggles were turnovers. They had nine at the half and finished with 16.
"We just turned the ball over too many times," Hughey said.
But when BYU opened the second half making only 3 of 11 shots the Wildcats trimmed the margin down to seven on a 3-point barrage by Scott Bamforth (5 of 9 from 3-point range) and B. J. Porter.
"Scotty did a great job of making some big shots," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. "He's a confident player. He's a good player. But the team did a good job of finding him and getting him the ball."
When Fredette (who scored a game-high 28 points) hit two 3-pointers and scored eight straight, and Chris Collinsworth (9 points) sank two free throws, the Cougars were suddenly back ahead by 16 and appeared to be coasting. But when Rahe switched the Wildcats to a zone the Cougars couldn't get their transition game going and looked confused on several possessions.
"Everything starts with stops and rebounds," Rahe said.
With those stops and baskets on the other end, the Wildcats slowly trimmed BYU's lead to 64-60 on another 3-pointer by Bamforth.
"We knew they were going to continue to fight ... and that's what we were expecting," Fredette said.
Weber State had a chance to cut BYU's lead to two but Bamforth missed a tough runner in the paint, and Fredette quickly came back with a 2-and-1 to give BYU a 67-60 lead with 2:43 remaining.
A long 3-pointer by Kyle Bullinger with 12 seconds left made it a four-point game once again, but Fredette sealed it with two free throws on the other end.
"Sometimes you just get beat, and we got beat tonight. We got beat by a dang good basketball team," Rahe said.
After the win, Rose admitted that his team looked fatigued at times on defense. The game was BYU's eighth-straight away from the Marriott Center. They return to their home court on Thursday to face UTEP.
"It's kind of a tough swing that we've been through, but we played really hard and competed, especially in some real opportune times ... it just came down to a couple of plays," Rose said.
But Rose and his players were not blaming fatigue on the tough shooting night.
"We got good shots, we just had a hard time hitting them. But that's how it is some nights ... we normally hit a lot of those shots that we got. So we had to find another way to win, and we did," Rose said.
Fredette also called it just one of those inexplicable cold-shooting nights.
"They just weren't falling for us, and that happens to good shooters and good shooting teams ... I thought we had great looks, we just weren't making them," Fredette said.
After losing for the first time last weekend against UCLA, the Cougars were just glad to get back on the winning track.
"It's just good to get that (losing) taste out of our mouths," said sophomore center Brandon Davies, who scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds..
Bamforth led Weber State in scoring with 17 points. Hughey added 15 and Bullinger contributed 12.
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