SALT LAKE CITY — Down two starters, Weber State still was right there, threatening to take an improbable win over BYU with just under a minute remaining and down 68-66 Saturday night at Vivint Arena. That's when Dusty Baker drove to the basket hard, only to have his shot blocked by BYU's Yoeli Childs with 36 seconds left on the clock.
Weber State players, including Baker, thought there was enough contact to warrant a foul call and two free throws to tie it up, but the officiating crew saw it otherwise.
“We thought we got a layup and I thought there was a chance we were going to the foul line, but it didn’t go our way,” said Weber State coach Randy Rahe. “It was a tough possession, but I think they guarded us well. It wasn’t lack of execution. It might have been more that they guarded the heck out of us.”
The Wildcats ultimately fell 74-68 but left the arena largely optimistic with their effort, considering what was going against them going in.
Gone were the services of big-men Brekkott Chapman and Zach Braxton, adding considerably to Weber State's underdog status. Still, Rahe implored his players to not let it bother them and to play as if it wasn't a factor.
“It’s what we got to be. I told our guys that when our two big guys go down — two of our best players — that, ‘Hey, next man up,’” Rahe said. “We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves. Not here at Weber State.”
Players took Rahe's words to heart, particularly sophomore guard Jerrick Harding — a player fans may be hearing more about in the coming years. The 6-foot-1 Wichita, Kansas, product sliced up BYU's defense for the better part of the night and ended with a game-high 29 points.
“He’s got a unique ability to score and he can score in a lot of different ways,” Rahe said. “He’s a terrific finisher around the rim, and on top of that he’s such a mentally tough kid. He probably thinks he’s better than he is, and I love that about him.”
As for Harding, he was largely pleased with his team's effort despite the loss.
“I feel this is a big confidence builder,” Harding said. “We haven’t been playing that well and we made it a point to come out and play a lot better. So I feel this game helped us a lot going forward.”
With the loss, Weber State falls to 4-5 on the season and will look to rebound Saturday at home when taking on Arkansas-Pine Bluff.