Chen Wang, Deseret News
Utah guard Carlon Brown, left, drives to the basket against Weber State center Steve Panos.

OGDEN — With the clock ticking down in the first half of his team's game against Utah, Weber State forward Darin Mahoney had no choice but to throw up a prayer from 3-point range.

It certainly wasn't designed that way, as Mahoney got the ball in his hands on the left wing on a busted play. The Utes couldn't have been happier with what their defense forced, as Mahoney had never made a 3-pointer in his collegiate career.

But at an awkward angle and with an uncomfortable-looking jumper, Mahoney took it to the bank.

Mahoney's 3-pointer went in off the backboard as time expired in the first half, and gave Weber State a spark in its 83-76 upset win over Utah on Wednesday night. The 3-pointer trimmed Utah's lead from six to three, and lifted the spirits of the Wildcats and their fans heading into the break at the Dee Events Center.

"I saw right before Damian (Lillard) passed it to me that there were two seconds left on the clock," Mahoney said. "I really just threw it up and obviously got lucky with it."

The Wildcats needed a lift after having a difficult time with the Utes in the first half. Utah scored the game's first nine points and led by as many as 14 in the first half. Mahoney's 3-pointer got Weber State closer than it had been since trailing by two with 16:12 left in the first half.

"That was huge," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said of Mahoney's basket. "He makes that and our guys are excited, confident. Six points is a lot of points against a team like that. It gave our kids a big lift."

No one at Weber State will deny that there was some luck involved with Mahoney's basket. But it was one that the Wildcats happily accepted after starting their season losing four of their first five games against an extremely challenging schedule.

"We needed a break," Rahe said. "It was time for a break. Hard work pays off. I think with the hard work the kids have been doing maybe it enabled that ball to go in to give our guys a little bit of a break."

It was nice to give his team a lift, but don't expect Mahoney, a 6-foot-8 post player, to attempt many more 3-pointers. Unless …

"From that angle, if I get the glass, maybe just from right there," Mahoney said.

The Wildcats used up their luck with Mahoney's basket, because they didn't need any in the second half. They earned their first victory over the Utes since the 2000-01 season by committing zero turnovers after halftime. They also collected five more rebounds than Utah, a team that had a huge size advantage over them.

Weber State took its first lead of the game at 53-51 when Lillard scored on a goal-tended shot. A basket by center Steve Panos gave the Wildcats the lead for good at 71-69, and Panos and Kyle Bullinger took key charges down the stretch to end a couple of possessions for Utah.

Lillard led the Wildcats with 28 points, and Panos had 20 points and seven rebounds.

It was Weber State's first win over an in-state opponent this season after losing to Utah State and BYU.

"We knew we didn't have anything to lose," Lillard said. "Everyone expected us to lose. We knew everybody thought they was big and they were just going to come in and bully us and we didn't let them bully us. We fought back and we came out on top."