With representatives from nine NBA teams, including Kevin O’Connor of the Utah Jazz, Damian Lillard put on a show in WSU’s 92-79 victory over Portland State University.
Head Coach Randy Rahe said he had been waiting for Lillard to have a big game after he struggled in the last few games.
“Tonight, Damian was just being Damian,” Rahe said. “The last couple of games he’s had a lot of stuff on his plate. He was tired mentally, a little worn down.”
Rahe said he met with Lillard last week, following the loss to Idaho State University, and told him to clear his mind of everything that wasn’t important.
“Monday we talked for a long time,” Rahe said, “ . . . I told him to go back to playing the game because you love to play, and not play because someone is expecting something from you.”
Lillard said after a tough few weeks, he worked hard in practice to raise his game.
“My shots just weren’t falling,” Lillard said. “The shots were tougher for me to make and everything was just harder for me. I just had to get back in the gym and figure out how teams were guarding me . . . and focus on what I’m doing.”
Good shooting got WSU in front early on. Damian Lillard hit a 3-pointer, and Scott Bamforth hit back to back 3-point shots in the first five minutes of the game to give the Wildcats a 13-5 lead.
PSU was lead early on by Chehales Tapsoctt who scored the Vikings first seven points of the game.
Halfway through the half, PSU tried to mount a comeback and were able to cut the Wildcat lead to three points at 19-16.
Lillard continued his good shooting throughout the half, hitting three 3-pointers in the first half.
WSU played well throughout the first half, but the Vikings kept the score close and didn’t trail by more than 10 during the half. At the break, the Wildcats had a seven-point lead and were up 39-32.
In the first half, WSU shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the three-point line. In the first half, there were only two lead changes with WSU controlling much of the first half.
Lillard led WSU in the first half with 17 points.
Kyle Bullinger got things started for WSU in the second half, hitting back to back 3-pointers to push the Wildcat lead to eight points.
Five minutes into the second half, WSU pushed its lead to 11 points, going up 54-43 thanks to a reverse layup by Byron Fulton. After, the Wildcats passed the ball around with ease.
In the second half, Lillard took over. In less than a minute, he hit a smooth fade away, then on the next WSU possession, drained his fifth 3-pointer of the game.
Lillard said he wasn’t looking to take control of the game, but just got hot in the second half.
“I wasn’t thinking to take over,” Lillard said. “I was just in a great rhythm.”
Lillard would finish the game with X threes.
Bamforth said playing with Lillard is a great opportunity and enjoys seeing him have good games.
“It’s fun,” Bamforth said. “He just does whatever Coach asks him to. He just makes plays.”
Lillard received a standing ovation and loud cheers from the crowd when he left the game with 11 seconds to play. Lillard scored 40 points.
Mike Brown replaced Lillard and, with his only possession of the game, hit a 3-pointer to cap off WSU’s 92-79 victory.
The Wildcats will take on the University of Northern Colorado on Saturday at the Dee Events Center. Tip off will be at 5 p.m.