BYU basketball: Weber State wilts under Cougars' pressure
Provo • It's official. BYU is the best college basketball team in Utah.
Earlier this season, Weber State had beaten Utah State, a team that had outlasted BYU.
Yet, from the moment BYU wing Brock Zylstra opened Wednesday night's game with a banked 3-pointer from the right wing he chuckled about it on the way down court it obviously was not Weber State's night.
"They were confident," WSU coach Randy Rahe said.
Certainly, the Cougars' 94-66 victory in the Marriott Center did not live up to pregame hype. Surely, the Wildcats, who at times appeared nervous and out of sorts, did not perform to the level expected of themselves.
"They sped us up," said WSU's leading scorer, Damian Lillard, who managed his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. "They were really long and good at changing shots. They played great defense."
Lillard admitted that Weber State (5-2) played a little panicked as BYU's pressure defense swarmed the Wildcats, now 0-19 all time in Provo. The Cougars' 18-4 run in the first half proved decisive.
It began with the long arms of guard Anson Winder, who played a large role in keeping Lillard under his 28-point average. Lillard, double-teamed early, was forced to work hard and invent. Weber State will not meet anyone in the Big Sky Conference with the length of BYU's Brandon Davies or Noah Hartsock, who combined for 30 points, 21 rebounds and six blocks.
"They're a problem on both ends of the floor," Lillard said.
BYU took a 47-34 lead into the halftime locker room. The 13 points in the first half by unrelenting WSU center Kyle Tresnak allowed the game to be that close.
WSU coach Randy Rahe did not use injury or sickness as an excuse. He lost senior wing Kyle Bullinger, out 4-to-6 weeks with a dislocated right elbow, on Saturday. Frank Otis left the game with an injured knee and several members of the team were ill.
"They're big, strong and old," Rahe said of BYU. "We needed to take away easy baskets and we needed to be physical. Obviously we didn't get that done tonight.
"It was just one game. We'll be back."