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Weber State basketball: Wildcats looking to stay perfect in Big Sky

By Randy Hollis

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11 2012 11:48 p.m. MST

OGDEN — The last time a Weber State men's basketball team started Big Sky Conference play 4-0, the Wildcats:

A. Wound up running the table in the Big Sky with a perfect 14-0 league record.

B. Swept the conference regular-season and postseason tournament titles.

C. Earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

D. All of the above.

Of course, the answer is "D," and the Wildcats will try to take two more giant steps toward making "A," "B" and "C" happen this season when they host Montana State and Montana this weekend.

The Bobcats of Montana State invade the Dee Events Center tonight, with the Grizzlies from Montana coming to town on Saturday. Both games tip off at 7 p.m.

"Montana State is extremely athletic and they can really shoot the ball," said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. "They do a lot of different things offensively, and we will have our hands full. Both games this week will be big challenges for us."

Weber State has won six straight games after sweeping its first Big Sky road trip of the season last week, coming away with wins at Eastern Washington and Portland State, which led by 15 points in the first half before the Wildcats rallied behind the scoring of junior guards Damian Lillard and Scott Bamforth. Lillard scored 23 points in the first half on his way to 38, and Bamforth scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half in the come-from-behind victory over the Vikings at Portland.

Lillard was named the league and national player of the week after averaging 34 points, six rebounds, five assists and one blocked shot per game in the Wildcats' two road wins. He continues to lead the nation in scoring with an average of 26.3 ppg and is also 4th in the country in 3-pointers per game (3.7), 12th in 3-point shooting percentage (47.4) and 14th in free-throw percentage (90.9).

With 19 more points tonight, Lillard will pass Jimmie Watts and the late, legendary great Willie Sojourner and move into 4th place on WSU's all-time scoring list.

The Wildcats lost their third big man in little more than a month with an injury when sophomore backup center James Hajek went down with a knee injury at Portland. Senior Kyle Bullinger (elbow) and junior forward Frank Otis (knee) were both sidelined in early December and remain questionable for this weekend's games.

Tonight's opponent, Montana State, is led by junior guards Xavier Blount and Christian Moon, who are averaging 11.7 and 11.6 points per game, respectively. Among the Bobcats' seven victims thus far this season are five victories over teams which Weber State also defeated — Utah, Northern New Mexico, San Jose State, Portland State and Idaho State.

The Wildcats have beaten the Bobcats in seven of their last 10 meetings and own a decisive 46-7 advantage over MSU in games played in Ogden, but the two teams have split their last four games, 2-2, at the Dee Center.

WILDCATS ON THE AIR

Montana State (7-7, 2-1 Big Sky) at Weber State (12-3, 4-0)

Thursday, January 12th, 7 p.m.

Dee Events Center, Ogden

TV: none Radio: 1280 AM

email: rhollis@desnews.com

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