The Weber State University men’s basketball team got its season off to a roaring start with a 101-55 win over the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs on Monday at the Dee Events Center.
Head Coach Randy Rahe said he felt the team played well and controlled the pace of the game.
“I thought offensively, we shared the ball really well,” Rahe said. “I thought we kept playing the way we need to play and didn’t get sloppy and didn’t get into turning the ball over.”
Early in the first half, WSU started off with a high-pressure defense, which frustrated the UCCS offense. Scott Bamforth came up with a steal and started a fast break. Damian Lillard finished it off with a dunk that brought a loud cheer from the WSU fans.
Lillard had a strong start to his first non-scrimmage game since breaking his foot last year. He scored five early points and helped the Wildcats to an 11-2 lead six minutes into the game.
After the Purple and White Game, Rahe said he felt the team needed to improve a lot defensively. During Monday’s game, WSU played strong defense, which forced UCCS into multiple errors and turnovers. In the first nine minutes of the game, WSU forced nine turnovers.
Kyle Bullinger said being a strong defensive team is something the Wildcats would like to be known for this season.
“It was something that the coaches emphasized at halftime,” Bullinger said, “the importance of continuing to play defense the way we did in the first half . . . ball pressure denying leads, that’s the kind of stuff we want to hang our hats on.”
In the game, the Wildcats had 28 points off turnovers. UCCS only managed four points from turnovers. WSU also saw a strong performance from its bench. Daren Mahoney started the game on the bench and came in to provide a spark for the team. He contributed nine points and had five rebounds. Rahe said having Mahoney come off the bench was something he hopes will help the team.
“I loved Daren Mahoney off the bench,” Rahe said. “I just loved the energy. He lifts our team, and I like that off the bench. “
Mahoney said he wants to help the team and is willing to do whatever Rahe needs him to do.
“I’m going to just do the same thing,” Mahoney said. “Anytime I’m in there, I’m just going to play hard. If Coach needs me to bring a spark off the bench, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Wildcats were helped offensively by a few new faces. Freshman Gelaun Wheelwright had a strong first half and proved he can be a threat from behind the arc. Wheelwright hit a three, which helped the Wildcats extend their first-half lead.
In the second half, WSU continued its dominance, with Byron Fulton and Bullinger turning in strong performances for the team. The Mountain Lions weren’t able to close the gap, and WSU ran away with the game.
For much of the game, WSU played strong defense, but Rahe said he still feels the team has room to improve before the start of the regular season this weekend.
“I would say for probably about thirty minutes of the game, I was pretty pleased with our defensive performance,” Rahe said. “We’ve still got a long way to go defensively, but I thought we made some strides.”
The Wildcats will open their regular season on Friday, when they host the University of Northern New Mexico. The team will then host in-state rival Utah State University on Nov. 15.