Big Sky basketball: Newcomer SUU faces tough test in visiting Weber State
How good is Weber State?
The Wildcats are perfect in four Big Sky Conference games, including an overtime victory at Portland State, winning by an average of more than 20 points a game.
On Thursday, WSU (9-3, 4-0 BSC) travels to Southern Utah (5-8, 3-1), which has celebrated its first season in the Big Sky by winning three of four league games. Tipoff is 7:05 p.m. in the Centrum.
"This is a good matchup for us," said SUU's first-year coach Nick Robinson. "Weber State is obviously a basketball team that is well-coached."
Weber State has not missed a beat despite losing All-American guard Damian Lillard to the NBA. The Wildcats, slow out of the gate in preseason, are fueled by a high-pressure defense and a balanced offense featuring four players who average more than two assists a game.
Junior wing Davion Berry is WSU's leading scorer (13.1) and assist man (3.9).
"It feels like we have a pretty high ceiling now and they've got to stay hungry and determined," WSU coach Randy Rahe said about his team. "We have a whole bunch of guys who've never won anything around here.
"We've told them, 'Go try and prove something.' "
Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds, picked to finish 10th in the BSC, were 14-17 under Roger Reid in 2012. Among the returning players is senior Jackson Stevenett, who is the league's second-leading scorer, at 14.9 points.
SUU, which had a three-game league winning streak snapped at Sacramento State, has been outrebounding opponents by nearly eight a game.
"Our team has improved considerably over the last couple of months," Robinson said. "I'm pleased with our effort and desire to improve."
Weber State's players believe their defense and overall game will make them successful.
"No matter who we play, we're going to pressure," WSU guard Scott Bamforth said. "We can play a lot of different ways, fast or slow. We can play inside, rough and tough, or get out on the break."
Weber State at Southern Utah
O The Centrum (Cedar City) Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • None Radio • 1280 AM, 91.1 FM, 97.5 FM
Records • WSU 9-3, 4-0 Big Sky; SUU 5-8, 3-1
Series history • WSU leads, 22-6
Last meeting • WSU 84-66 (Dec. 10, 2011)
About the Wildcats • WSU's victory on Saturday was the team's fifth consecutive win and eighth in nine games. ... Senior guard Scott Bamforth, the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week, averaged 20.5 points, three assists and 2.5 steals in a pair of conference victories.
About the Thunderbirds • SUU is ninth in the conference in scoring and eighth in scoring defense. ... Senior Jackson Stevenett is second in the BSC with a 14.9 scoring average. He also ranks seventh in rebounding (6.3).