OGDEN — After going winless in its 18 previous trips to Provo, the Weber State men's basketball team had reason to be optimistic in its goal of finally beating BYU in the Marriott Center this year.
But in last Saturday's double-overtime duel with San Jose State, the Wildcats' leading rebounder, senior forward Kyle Bullinger, went down with a dislocated elbow in a nasty first-half fall. He'll be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, severely hurting not only himself but also the Wildcats' chances of finally coming away with their first-ever road win in this series when they invade the Marriott Center tonight.
WSU head coach Randy Rahe was saddened to see Bullinger get injured.
"I'm just sick to my stomach for him," Rahe said. "He epitomizes what we're all about. He's one of those kids who, if you need a tough rebound, he goes and gets it; you need to take a charge ot make a big play, he does it; you need to put him on the best offensive player, and he shuts 'em down. He's our tough guy. He's our identity.
"I'm not as concerned about our team. We'll figure out a way to be successful. I'm concerned about him, because he has put a lot into this season and worked so hard. And he'll get back, he's gonna get back. I just hate to see him miss any time. He's such a tough, hard-nosed kid. But we'll get him back and hopefully we'll see how long it's going to be."
TOUGH PLACE TO PLAY: Weber State has lost eight straight times to the Cougars, who have won 11 of the last 12 in the series between the two schools. The Wildcats' last win over BYU came in 2003 in Ogden.
Winning in Provo has proven to be darned near impossible for every Weber State squad. The Wildcat men's and women's basketball, football, soccer and volleyball teams are a combined 1-74 against BYU in Provo. Weber's lone win was by the women's basketball team, which won in overtime there in 1989.
LILLARD HONORED: Weber State junior guard Damian Lillard earned the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award with his impressive performance last weekend against San Jose State.
The 6-3, 195-pound guard from Oakland, Calif., scored a career-high 41 points in leading the Wildcats to a 91-87 double-overtime win over the Spartans last Saturday. Lillard's 41 points is the second-most in school history, and he's the first Wildcat to score 40 or more points in a game since Harold Arceneaux in 2000.
Lillard, the 2009-10 Big Sky MVP, had 24 points at the end of regulation, including a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds to send the game into overtime, before scoring 17 more points in the two overtimes. He scored nine of WSU's 13 points in the second OT, including the go-ahead layup and free throw with 10.7 seconds left.
Lillard also led the team with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals against San Jose State.
In the game before that, a loss to St. Mary's, Lillard scored 36 points. With 77 points in his last two games, he continues to lead the country in scoring with an average of 28.2 points per game. He has scored 20 or more points in five of six games this season.