Weber State's Damian Lillard wins battle of all-league guards
Missoula, Mont. • With Weber State struggling to catch a seriously confident Portland State, it seemed inevitable that down the stretch, the game would tilt on the play of a point guard.
For much of Tuesday's Big Sky Conference semifinal in Dahlberg Arena, it was Portland State's Charles Odum who held the advantage.
The all-Big Sky First Team performer was making makes for the highlight reel. He was banking off-balance drives off the glass and sinking rainbows on the run.
Meanwhile, Weber State's Damian Lillard spent much of the game trying to find his game.
In the end, it was Lillard, the Big Sky MVP, who made the difference. While Odum suffered a couple game-changing turnovers, Lillard had the ball and the eventual 69-63 victory in his hands.
"I just wanted to make sure we won the game," Lillard said. "I'm the leader of the team and I hadn't played a great game up until that last five minutes. I wanted to block everything out and do everything I could do to help the team; guard Odum and slow him down a little bit. Anything I could do that was better than I had done up until that moment."
Lillard finished with 22 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Odum scored a game-high 24. Only eight came after intermission.
"We had a couple key turnovers," Odum said. "I turned the ball over twice. I do take some responsibility for the loss."
Weber State frustrated Odum, who was often left gesturing to an official about a non-call. Odum didn't blame anyone but himself for the Vikings' meltdown in the final five minutes, one that saw them make just one point.
"We didn't have a choice really," Lillard said his team's defense. "We made a lot of mistakes defensively, but all that mattered was that we get our minds right and finish the game the last five minutes."
Certainly, from a fan's perspective, the game within the game, Lillard against Odum, was worth the price of admission.
Even the players recognized that.
"Damian is a good player, you know," Odum said. "He's unbelievable sometimes. You can tell he's worked on his game. It's real refined. It definitely makes you prepare for a game like this.
"He always brings best out of everybody on the floor."
On Tuesday, it was Weber State who had the best at the end.