Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Weber State Wildcats guard/forward Scott Bamforth (4) shoots over Idaho State Bengals guard Chase Grabau (2) in Ogden Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.
It's going to be intense and Eastern Washington is a good team, and hopefully we can come out with a win.

OGDEN — Their home court has been awfully good to the Weber State men's basketball team this season.

And the road? Well, not so much.

But the Wildcats, who are a perfect 8-0 at home thus far but have suffered all three of their losses away from the Dee Events Center, will try to find some success in the Pacific Northwest this week when they take their first Big Sky Conference road trip. Weber State plays at Eastern Washington on Thursday, then at Portland State on Saturday.

The Wildcats opened conference play with a pair of double-digit home wins over Idaho State and Sacramento State last weekend. But neither one of those victories came easily, as the 'Cats seemed to lack a killer instinct and let their opponents hang around until deep in the second half of both games at the Dee Center.

"We need to get sharper," said WSU junior guard Scott Bamforth. "It's not really a concern, but it's going to be our first road trip in conference, so our young guys have to get used to how the intensity is turned up rather than just a regular away game in the preseason.

"It's going to be intense and Eastern Washington is a good team, and hopefully we can come out with a win."

The road has not been particularly kind to the Wildcats thus far this season, with lopsided losses at St. Mary's, BYU and California.

And now they'll have a target on their backs after being picked as preseason favorites to win this year's Big Sky championship.

"It just means that we need to practice harder and always be ready," Bamforth said. "We can't have a night where we're not ready to play because every team is going to give us their best, and if we don't come ready to play they're going to take advantage of it.

"So it's good to have a target on your back because it gives you some kind of respect, obviously, but it also holds you more accountable at practice. You've got to pay attention to detail and practice hard and play hard and come ready to play because if you're not, you could get beat."

Thursday night's game features four of the top five scorers in the Big Sky this season. Weber State junior guard Damian Lillard leads not just the league but the entire nation with an average of 25.2 points per game, and Bamforth sits fifth at 14.9 ppg.

Eastern Washington's Collin Chiverton currently ranks third in the league in scoring with 17.1 points per game, and EWU teammate Cliff Colimon is fourth at 15.1.

WSU coach Randy Rahe says the Eagles have one of the most talented teams in the Big Sky, and he's hoping his own ballclub is up to the challenge.

"I think the biggest thing with going on the road is your mind, your mindset — you've got to be tough, you've got to be together and you've got to be mature," he said. " ... Around here, we've always embraced the challenge of going on the road.

"I think it's always kind of fun to go out there. I know it's hard, especially Thursday night with the team we're going to play — well, both games, actually — it's a huge challenge. But I love a challenge and our guys love a challenge and whether you're successful or not, it's a heck of a challenge, so let's go take it on and see what happens, see what we can do."

As for again being the preseason pick to take the Big Sky title, Rahe sees it as having a positive impact.

"That gives teams motivation, and that's good," he said. "We want everybody's best shot, and if you are able to be successful when you get somebody's best shot, then it hurts that team a lot more.

"It's going to be a huge challenge, but we're going to accept it and go on and see what happens."

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Wildcats on the air

Weber State (10-3, 2-0)

at Eastern Washington (7-7, 1-1)

Tonight, 7 p.m. MT

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