Damian Lillard powers Weber State to win over Southern Utah University
Ogden • The last week or so has not been the best for Weber State.
First came the loss of its best rebounder and court leader Kyle Bullinger to a right elbow separation. Then came the 30-point embarrassment at BYU a few days later, compounded by a knee injury to starting post Frank Otis.
Damian Lillard, it turned out Saturday night, was the best remedy. Having Southern Utah over to the Dee Events Center didn't hurt, either.
Lillard, the nation's leading scorer, poured in 31 points and was one assist short of a double-double to lead Weber State past SUU, 84-66.
"Damian does what Damian does," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. "He's not just a scorer. He rebounds, he passes the ball. ... He wants to guard the best guy on the other team."
Lillard, who scored in a variety of ways, capped his night when the Thunderbirds fell asleep inbounding the basketball. Lillard simply gathered up the loose ball, set himself at the 3-point line and launched.
The junior guard's highlight moment came in the first half. Lillard coasted full court, then shifted into a higher gear, sliced through the SUU defense and slammed home a rim-rattler to give WSU a 32-25 lead.
"Every time I bring the ball up ... I try to get the defender off balance," Lillard said. "Once I was in the air, I knew I'd get to the rim."
As important as Lillard's scoring was Saturday, maybe even more so was his ball movement. Lillard, who needed only 15 shots to score his 31, also made a conscious effort to pound the ball inside, where WSU (6-2) had a definite advantage against SUU (4-5).
Starting posts Kyle Tresnak and Darin Mahoney did a great job of finishing and were a combined 10 of 14 for 24 points.
The injuries to Bullinger and Otis also forced Rahe to play freshmen Gelaun Wheelwright and James Hajek. Rahe also played a three-guard lineup.
"Overall we looked fairly comfortable," Rahe said. "When you make [these kind of] adjustments on the fly it usually takes two weeks to get comfortable.
"We had to challenge them a little bit and they responded really well."
Weber State 84, SUU 66
R WSU guard Damian Lillard scores 31 points with a career-high nine assists.
• Weber State shoots 57 percent from the floor, 62 percent in the second half.
• Southern Utah has three players in double figures, including Ray Jones Jr., with 14.