Ogden • Weber State protected its home court Tuesday by the width of a basketball rim.
Utah Valley guard Holton Hunsaker's 3-point attempt with the game clock winding toward zero bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim, allowing the Wildcats to escape with a 72-69 victory in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
A minute earlier, a 3-pointer by Damian Lillard hung on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before falling in to give WSU a 69-66 advantage.
"Please go in," echoed Lillard and teammate Scott Bamforth when asked about the shot, which appeared to come to a complete stop before something, a small breeze maybe, pushed the ball in.
"All we want to do is keep playing," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. "It's been a tough week-and-a-half for our basketball team. Pretty emotional."
A NCAA Tournament berth was lost to Montana in the Big Sky Conference championship game. Then, the Wildcats (25-6) did not get an expected NIT bid.
"It would be foolish to get to this point and not prove ourselves worthy of being in the NIT," Lillard said.
Meanwhile, Utah Valley (20-13) thought it had blown its chance for any postseason with its semifinal loss in the Great West Conference Tournament.
"I feel better for our five seniors," UVU coach Dick Hunsaker said. "We've got a group that fights."
That determination was on display in the second half when Isiah Williams, who finished with 26 points, sparked a Wolverine rally from 13 points down. UVU tied the game 69-69 with less than a minute to play on a 3-pointer by Keith Thompson.
But that was to end UVU's scoring, while Weber State, which won't know its second-round opponent until Thursday, was 3-of-4 from the foul line.
Lillard led WSU with 21 points, but it was Bamforth's 16 in the second half that helped make the difference. Darin Mahoney's steal under the UVU basket with 15 seconds to play also proved a game changer.
• Utah Valley rallies from a 13-point deficit to tie Weber State with less than a minute to play.
• Weber State scores 17 points from 17 UVU turnovers.
• WSU's Scott Bamforth scores 16 points in the second half.