OGDEN — As the Wildcats put it, Weber State now has to play a certain way with star guard Damian Lillard out for the season with a broken foot.
They have to play with a certain amount of toughness, play together, share the ball and be physical. They did it all to near-perfection in an 84-71 win over Sacramento State in front of 4,688 fans in the Dee Events Center on Thursday night.
"I was really proud of our guys," said Wildcats coach Randy Rahe. "I thought we came out and played hard and played really well. I thought we played with a good rhythm."
Lindsey Hughey and Byron Fulton each recorded career-highs against the struggling Hornets. Hughey had 27 points and Fulton had 17.
Kyle Bullinger just missed a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. Trevor Morris also had 15 points for the Wildcats.
Hughey said it was nice to be back in the friendly confines of the Purple Palace. The Wildcats (8-7, 2-2 Big Sky) had 23 days between home games before facing the Hornets (3-13, 0-5).
"The basket felt big," Hughey said. "My teammates got me shots when I was open. My confidence was up."
Hughey is Weber State's leading scorer and displayed an arsenal of ways to put the ball in the basket against Sacramento State. He hit three 3-pointers, made jumpers and drove to the basket. He said he isn't the Wildcats' go-to player, however, as that can be a different person every night without Lillard in the lineup.
"Anybody can be the go-to player," Hughey said. "Anybody can have a hot night. We've started to share the ball more, and it's making our offense run smoother."
Keeping the ball moving has been an emphasis for the Wildcats since Lillard got hurt, and the strategy is beginning to pay off. It helped Weber State shoot 54.4 percent against the Hornets.
"The ball can't stick (in one spot)," Rahe said. "The ball has got to keep moving. Guys did a good job with that. We're not looking for someone in particular (in the offense), we've just got to get to the best shot."
Weber State gave Sacramento State its best shot early in both halves and the Hornets couldn't keep up. Sacramento State missed 13 of its first 16 shots, and Weber State was able to quickly build a 15-6 lead. In the second half, the Wildcats outscored the Hornets 14-5 in the first five minutes to open a 56-37 advantage.
The only reason the Hornets stayed reasonably close in the first half was their 3-point shooting. Sacramento State, which entered Thursday's game shooting 31 percent from 3-point range, hit seven 3-pointers in the first half.
It wasn't enough. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Hughey gave the Wildcats a 29-20 lead. Weber State pulled away just before halftime as Fulton, Bullinger and Hughey each made baskets during an 8-0 run. The spurt gave the Wildcats a 42-29 lead.
"Coach said it was going to be tough," said Hughey. "They did fight, but we ran away with it."1 comment on this story
Weber State had a 28-14 edge in points in the paint.
"That's the way we've got to play," Rahe said. "A lot of our stuff is designed to go inside. We've got to play inside-out. It makes our offense run a lot smoother when we go inside."
The only blemish on Weber State's night was an injury to starting forward Darin Mahoney. He suffered a strained calf in the first half and played just 11 minutes.