BYU basketball: Cougars rout Weber State, stake claim as state's best team
Provo • Weber State might have the best college basketball player in the state of Utah this year, but Wednesday's game debunked those myths flung far and wide recently that the Wildcats also have the best team.
Six players scored in double figures for BYU and the Cougars physically overpowered the upstart Wildcats, winning 94-66 in front of 11,676 fans at the Marriott Center.
"We played really well tonight, maybe played our best game of the season against a really good team," said BYU coach Dave Rose, whose team improved to 7-2.
Weber State (5-2) still has never won in Provo in 19 tries, and with the way the ailing Wildcats were dominated, they might not want to come back for No. 20.
Weber State coach Randy Rahe said several of his players, whom he did not specify, were ill. But that's not an excuse, he said, for the way the Wildcats were overwhelmed in the last half of the first half and the entire second half.
"A lot of it was just [BYU]," Rahe said. "They played terrific."
BYU also had something to do with the nation's leading scorer, WSU's Damian Lillard, having a rare poor shooting night. Lillard was held to a season-low 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but did have 10 rebounds, all defensive. And with the team shooting 33 percent (22 of 66 from the field), the Wildcats never really had a chance while being outscored 42-22 in the paint.
Almost every Cougar got a shot at guarding Lillard, and sometimes two or three at a time.
"I was really impressed with how we consistently were engaged on trying to make the game hard for him," Rose said. "The credit goes to the fellas. They were good."
Meanwhile, the Cougars stayed hot, shooting 50.6 percent (39 of 77) and blitzing the much smaller Wildcats from almost every angle.
Noah Hartsock led the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds, but right behind BYU's emerging star were Charles Abouo, Brock Zylstra, Stephen Rogers and Nate Austin, all with 15 points apiece.
It was a career-high for Austin, who played well off the bench for a third-straight game and is pushing starter Brandon Davies (11 points, nine rebounds) for playing time. That's a notion that surprises Hartsock, who admitted that he took one look at the 6-foot-11 Austin last summer when the former Lone Peak High star returned home from a mission and thought to himself, "This guy looks like a great redshirt candidate."
Rose said BYU's effort the past two outings the Cougars routed Oregon 79-65 on Saturday "has been the storyline," but players such as Hartsock and Zylstra acknowledged that all the talk of Weber State's supposed in-state supremacy had reached the ears of a team that did reach the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 last year.
"A couple people heard it. You know, I heard it," Zylstra said. "It is something that just gives motivation. You don't want to be anything but the best team, especially in Utah. ... When you hear stuff like that, that the best team in Utah is not your team, you are going to take it to heart. For some guys, that's why they played more aggressive tonight, I guess to prove that we are a great team."
Rose also liked the way the Cougars shared the ball, getting 20 assists with just seven turnovers.
"That's terrific. That will work for us," he said.
Both teams continue in-state play on Saturday, with BYU traveling to Utah and Weber State playing host to Southern Utah.
R In short • BYU flexes some in-state muscle with a demolition of upstart Weber State, improving to 19-0 against the Wildcats in Provo.
Key moment • After Weber State's Scott Bamforth picks up a questionable technical foul, BYU goes on a 20-4 run in the first half to seal the outcome.
Key stat • Six Cougars reach double figures in scoring and WSU's Damian Lillard is held to 15 points, a season-low.