BYU, Weber State basketball: Damian Lillard struggles; 'Cats still winless in Provo
PROVO — If you're from Weber State, this otherwise congenial Utah County community isn't exactly the Happiest Place on Earth.
Far, far from it. More like a morgue or a graveyard, in fact.
The Wildcats came into Wednesday night's men's basketball game against BYU with an 0-18 all-time record against the Cougars in the Marriott Center.
What's more, the WSU men's and women's basketball, football, soccer and volleyball teams were a combined 1-74 when playing in Provo prior to Wednesday's hoops matchup.
Well, now you can make that 0-19 and 1-75.
The Cougars did a dazzling defensive job on Weber State star Damian Lillard, and BYU big men Noah Hartsock, Stephen Rogers, Nate Austin and Brandon Davies wreaked havoc on the Wildcats inside in a 94-66 rout in front of 11,676 fans in the spacious Marriott Center.
Hartsock had 19 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs, while Rogers and Austin added 15 points apiece off the bench. Davies contributed 11 points, and he and Austin each grabbed nine rebounds as the Cougars won the battle of the boards 45-42 over the Wildcats, whose leading rebounder, senior forward Kyle Bullinger, suffered a dislocated elbow last Saturday and will be sidelined for another 4-6 weeks.
Lillard, a junior guard who had poured in a combined 77 points in his previous two games and came into Wednesday's clash leading the nation in scoring with an average of over 28 points per game, struggled to a season-low 15 against the Cougars' aggressive defense.
"They kept their posts with me a little longer … and they trapped me and forced me to get rid of the ball," said Lillard, who managed just 12 shots but did grab a career-high 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.
"Then once I got rid of it, the man that was guarding me didn't help (on defense), he just kind of stayed with me and denied me the ball. Basically, they tried to make everyone else beat 'em.
"Give all the credit to them. They played great defense, they spread us out and made us do uncharacteristic things. They got us rushing and taking real quick shots, and we didn't make them guard us. They weren't wasting any energy guarding us because we started taking quick shots and they just came down and capitalized off of us rushing it. … They were just aggressive guarding me, period. Everything I did, they were real physical, and they knew where I was at all times. They just took me out of the game and executed their defensive game plan.
"Once it got away from us, I think we kind of panicked a little bit and started trying to make something happen on every catch — all of us — and I think it hurt us in the long run," Lillard said.
Another one of Weber State's big men, 6-foot-6 junior Frank Otis, went out with a knee injury midway through the first half, and the short-handed Wildcats wound up pulling the redshirt off freshman guard Gelaun Wheelwright, who responded with eight points and six rebounds in his collegiate debut.
Weber State head coach Randy Rahe was very frustrated with the lopsided loss, and he credited the Cougars' big men with making the difference in the outcome.
"Their size and their length really bothered us," he said. "They're big, they're strong, they're old, and I thought their length was a big, big factor in the game.
"We knew it was going to be tough. … They're a good basketball team. It was hard to keep up with them. I thought they played absolutely terrific. They are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now. My hat goes off to them.
"They get down that court and they move that ball, and they've got some veteran guys that understand how to play the game," Rahe said. "They're so big and we had no answer for them inside."
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