At times during Thursday night’s 76-64 win over Idaho State University, the Weber State University men’s basketball team struggled and suffered from some mental errors. But they were able to fight through it for the 900th win for WSU as a Division I school.
Despite the win for WSU, Head Coach Randy Rahe said the Wildcats didn’t play their best game against ISU.
“I give a lot of credit to Idaho State, and they fought really hard,” Rahe said. “We were really inconsistent and didn’t have a great mindset tonight. We had some good moments, but we were too sporadic and didn’t play a full 40 minutes. We have to play tougher, especially in conference games.”
Damian Lillard put up 26 points and received the biggest cheer of the night from the crowd on a breakaway dunk, which brought the crowd to its feet.
The game started off slowly for both teams, with both teams missing some opportunities early on. The Bengals especially struggled, committing three early turnovers, which allowed the Wildcats to jump out to an early 4-0 lead.
Scott Bamforth got the Wildcats going early on, contributing four early points. ISU was kept in the game by Melvin Morgan, who scored eight of the Bengals’ first 11 points. After the early stages of the game, WSU started to pull away, and built an 18-12 lead with just more than nine minutes to go in the half.
Lillard played well for WSU in the first half. Multiple times during the game, he outclassed the ISU defense. With just more than four minutes to go in the half, Lillard got a steal, cut right, then left, blew past the defender and laid the ball in for an easy two. He finished the first half with 12 points, including a deep 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the half.
At the break, WSU had built up a 37-23 point lead.
WSU started the second half off hot, and showed good ball movement when Bamforth dished the ball inside to Darin Mahoney for an easy two points, which extended the Wildcat lead to 42-25.
Halfway through the second half, Lillard ignited the crowd when he got the ball around midcourt, outran the ISU defense, took off a few steps past the foul line, and dunked the ball over an ISU defender.
ISU refused to go away, though, and kept the score close for much of the second half. Lillard said the Bengals played tough
Lillard led the Wildcats in scoring for the 10th time this season, finishing with 26 points on 8-13 shooting. It was the ninth time this season he has scored 20 or more points, and he continues to lead the nation in scoring at 25.4 points per game. Lillard was also a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line and finished with three assists and two steals. Along the way, Lillard passed Al Hamilton and moved into sixth on the WSU career-scoring list.
Bamforth added 21 points on 6-12 shooting and tied his career high with six rebounds. Byron Fulton added a season-high 15 points on 5-6 shooting off the bench. He said WSU needs to work hard and come ready to play in every game of the season.
“They’re not a bad team . . . they played hard,” Bamforth said. “We just need to come ready to play.”
With the win, WSU improved to 9-3 overall, 1-0 in Big Sky action, and 7-0 at home this season. ISU dropped to 2-10 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Over the holiday break, the Wildcats also racked up wins against Southern Utah University, Maryville State University and the University of Utah. Their only loss came against the University of California, Berkeley.