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BYU basketball: Cougars will have hands full with Lillard, Wildcats

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 7 2011 12:07 a.m. MST

Damian Lillard  (Robert Casey) Damian Lillard (Robert Casey)

PROVO — A year ago, BYU boasted the nation's leading scorer in Jimmer Fredette. Now, it's the Cougars' turn to host the country's top point-producer.

That's one of the many storylines for tonight's in-state battle between BYU and Weber State (7 p.m., MT, BYUtv) at the Marriott Center.

Wildcat junior point guard Damian Lillard is averaging 28.2 points per game, and is coming off a career-high 41-point outburst in last Saturday's double-overtime victory over San Jose State.

But Lillard isn't the only reason why Weber State poses a difficult challenge for the Cougars. The Wildcats (5-1) defeated Utah State earlier this season, the same Aggie team that downed BYU in the season-opener in Logan.

The Cougars, who have won six of seven games since that defeat at USU, turned in an impressive performance last Saturday, earning a convincing 79-65 win over Oregon at EnergySolutions Arena.

"We've got to have that same effort that we had on Saturday, but even better. Weber State is a dangerous team," said Cougar forward Noah Hartsock, who poured in a game-high 23 points against the Ducks. "They have great shooters and great players. Damian Lillard is one of the top players, not only in the state, but possibly in the country with his scoring ability. It's going to be a tough matchup. We just have to play hard and play as a team."

The Cougars have faced other talented guards this season already, including Wisconsin All-American Jordan Taylor.

"I think they're similar in their ability to make some late shot-clock scores and to create for themselves and for their team," BYU coach Dave Rose said of the comparisons between Lillard and Taylor. "The styles that the two teams play is a bit different."

The Cougars won last year's meeting in Ogden, 72-66. The Wildcats have never beaten BYU on the road, posting an 0-18 all-time record in Provo against the Cougars.

But Rose knows that these rivalry games can be intense affairs.

"Any of the in-state games are very emotional. It's important for one team to kind of match or exceed the emotion of the other team," he said. "These guys all know each other. They've played together, a lot of them have been to high school together, so it's an emotional game and hopefully you can execute at your best in a pretty emotional situation ... Weber is a high-scoring team and they love to score the ball."

Rose wants to his team build on the win over Oregon.

"The best thing about that was our effort. I'm not a guy who really wants to coach effort. I think these players are really self-motivated and their effort is supreme, but with this group, so far to this point, we've been really up and down with our effort," he said. "I felt that our effort the other night, after the first couple of minutes, was terrific consistently throughout the whole game. If we play that way, then I think we'll have a lot more offensive rebounds, and a lot more possessions. We didn't turn the ball over, so we got a lot more shot attempts, so I think that's the most positive thing that we can take from that game — just an effort from all the guys who played."

Tonight, Weber State will be without senior forward Kyle Bullinger, who suffered a dislocated elbow on his right arm in a fall in the first-half fall against San Jose State.

"It was quite a fall. I saw it on film and hopefully he'll be alright," Rose said. "When you take a couple of these players, a handful of them, that have all had really good games against us, now they're all playing together and we have to make sure defensively that we're prepared for what we're going to see because they're very good offensive skill players."

Contributing: Brandon Gurney

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

COUGARS ON THE AIR

Weber State (5-1) at BYU (6-2)

Tonight, 7 p.m.

TV: BYUtv

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

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