Tuesday night was the first real test that the Weber State University men’s basketball team had, and after the game, I sat down and reflected upon the 73-63 Wildcat victory over Utah State University. Here’s what I learned from the game.
Even when Damian Lillard has an off night, he’s still very good: Despite not having a very strong shooting performance, Lillard was still the second-highest scorer on the team with 17 points. He went 4-16 from the field and struggled from behind the arc. Despite that, he still had a strong game and showed that he is the best point guard in the state.
Lillard outscored, outworked and was a better teammate than USU’s Brockeith Pane. Throughout the night, Pane was frustrated by Lillard’s tough defense. Lillard forced Pane into making five turnovers, including one with minutes left that pretty much sealed the Wildcat victory.
Just Lillard’s presence on the court helped WSU. Every time he had the ball, USU defenders proved reluctant to leave him open, which helped teammates find open shots.
Scott Bamforth said playing with Lillard was part of the reason he was able to hit seven three-point shots in the game because of Lillard’s skill at point guard.
Opposing defenses will have their hands full: Before Tuesday’s game, I was curious to see how a quality opposing team would handle the offensive attack of Lillard and Bamforth. I had assumed that USU would key in on Lillard and Bamforth defensively.
Instead, the Aggies went with the much less effective plan of leaving Bamforth wide open, and Bamforth made the Aggies pay, over and over and over again.
As the season progresses, look for opposing teams to key in on the Wildcats’ backcourt, but the Wildcats can hurt teams inside as well. While Tuesday night wasn’t a very good night for WSU in the paint, the inside play will improve.
Based on last season and what they did in the pre-season games this year, it’s only a matter of time before Kyle Tresnak and newcomer Frank Otis start to dominate inside. Byron Fulton had a decent game for the ’Cats, putting up 10 points. With a strong inside presence and deadly outside shooters, WSU will give opposing coaches headaches this year.
This year is going to be fun: Tuesday was one of the most fun games I’ve been to, partly because of the atmosphere at the game and partly because of the game.
WSU fans were in great voice, and the atmosphere at the Dee Events Center was electric. I loved sitting on press row across from the WSU students and watching them chant, heckle and cheer. That’s one of the great things about college basketball. Fans can feel like a part of the team. It’s also something that players notice. After the game, Lillard mentioned the crowd and the great atmosphere, saying it was fun to play in front of such a crowd.
The game was also thrilling; anyone who was there can tell you that. For WSU, who has often been looked at as the little brother in the family of Utah athletics, it was a coming out party. For many in the state, this was the first time in years that they’ve noticed WSU.
After the game, Lillard, Bamforth and the WSU head coach all seemed reluctant to say that WSU is the best team in the state, but Lillard summed it up by saying that he believes the Wildcats can compete with anyone, and I think he’s right.
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