Utah Utes, Weber State basketball: Wildcats send Utes home in style

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 11:25 p.m. MST

Weber State University's head coach Randy Rahe yells to his team as Weber State University faces the University of Utah in NCAA basketball in Ogden, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

OGDEN — The Utah men's basketball team has yet to schedule any future games with Weber State.

What's more, it's very likely the Utes will never play in the Dee Events Center again.

And after the way they were manhandled and mistreated by the Wildcats on Thursday night, who could blame them for not wanting to come back to the Purple Palace?

Weber State staged a strong all-around performance against a struggling Utah team, building a 20-point halftime lead and cruising to a convincing 80-51 victory — their most lopsided win ever over the Utes, who wound up with their fewest points ever scored against a WSU team.

"I hope it's not the last time we play them," said Wildcats coach Randy Rahe, a former Utah assistant who improved his career head coaching record to 2-4 against the Utes and hopes to continue their series between the two in-state schools sometime soon. "Obviously we were contacted by their administration when they became a member of the Pac-12. They contacted us and Utah State and said their scheduling philosophy is going to change. I wish it wouldn't because these are great games for us, for our fans and our program.

"We've been playing them for I don't know how many years, and we wish we could continue to play them. Maybe we can get something started again a couple of years down the road.

"It's their prerogative," Rahe said. "We're going to respect it, but we're not going to like it because we like playing these games."

Junior guard Damian Lillard led the way for the Wildcats (8-3) with 22 points, while three players — Scott Bamforth, Kyle Tresnak and James Hajek — added 10 points apiece, with Jordan Richardson contributing nine points, Gelaun Wheelwright seven more and Darin Mahoney and Byron Fulton six each in what was a superbly balanced WSU attack beyond the usual brilliance of Lillard, the nation's leading scorer with 25.4 points per game.

"This week, coach put a real big emphasis on sharing the ball," Lillard said, "and that's the main reason we're getting better and better each game because we're sharing the ball more and more. We're just going to get better from that, the more the ball is moved around. We've got a lot of good players and guys that can shoot the ball and they're going to knock down shots and it's going to pay off for us."

Utah, which had its modest two-game winning streak snapped, got 14 points from Dijon Farr and 10 from Josh "Jiggy" Watkins. But the Utes (3-9) shot just 40 percent from the field, including 20 percent (3-of-15) from 3-point range, and were outrebounded 32-21.

"That's a really good ballclub that we faced with a lot of firepower," first-year Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "It's pretty easy to identify where our breakdowns came, and I think we can fix it."

Krystkowiak, who's had his share of tough nights against the Wildcats in the Purple Palace as a former University of Montana player and coach, sounded like it'd be fine with him if the Utes didn't have to come back to Ogden again.

"I don't care where I'm at, I'm not a big fan of playing Weber," he said.

"But I didn't have much to do with this decision to not do it. We'll revisit it.

"Scheduling is one of the hardest things and people from the outside assume that it's an easy task, but it's not. I would like to maybe get involved for a couple of years and get the program rolling and feel a little bit better about coming into a place that's got it pretty dialed in right now."

Thursday's game marks the Wildcats' final nonconference clash before beginning Big Sky play next Thursday against Idaho State.

Utah opens its first Pac-12 campaign on Dec. 31 at the University of Colorado.

Email: rhollis@desnews.com

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