In a game where Damian Lillard wasn’t the leading scorer, the Weber State University men’s basketball team knocked off Montana State University 79-70.
WSU guard Scott Bamforth said he felt the team responded well in the second half and was happy with the win.
“We had a tough second half,” Bamforth said. “But we found a way to pull it out.”
Despite not being the leading scorer in the game, Lillard made sure his teammates were involved early in the game.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead. Eight minutes into the game, WSU had a 20-9 lead. During those first eight minutes, the Wildcats were shooting 60 percent from the field.
Lillard started the game out racking up some early assists, including running a smooth pick-and-roll with Daren Mahoney early in the game.
Throughout the start of the game, Lillard played the role of distributer, getting his teammates involved. He also scored 11 first half points.
At the half, WSU had a large lead, going into the break up 42-24.
In the first half, WSU played tough defense and forced the Bobcats to make multiple turnovers and offensive mistakes. The tough defense held MSU to a 33 shooting percentage in the first half.
The Wildcats also out-rebounded MSU 20-12 in the first half.
At the start of the second half, the teams traded rebounds with neither team hitting a basket in the first minutes of the half.
The Bobcats struck first in the second half, but WSU answered back and kept the lead at 18 points.
Kyle Tresnak was strong inside early in the second half. He twice drove hard to the hoop and got to the foul line.
Five minutes into the second half, Scott Bamforth got into foul trouble, picking up his fourth foul of the game. Kyle Bullinger and Lillard were also in foul trouble with three fouls each.
Head Coach Randy Rahe said having so many key players get in foul trouble was something new for him.
“I was telling my staff that in my years here I’ve never been through that with the foul trouble,” Rahe said.
Bamforth also felt that WSU’s bench play was crucial in the game.
“Our bench play was huge tonight,” Bamforth said. “They played great.”
The Bobcats cut into the lead and cut the WSU lead to 10 points with 14 minutes left in the game.
Rahe said he was pleased with the way the team played in the first half, but the team struggled after the break.
“We played really well, I thought, in every area,” Rahe said. “It was a great half for us, then all of the sudden the wheels kind of came off in the second half.”
WSU went into a zone defense to try and stall the MSU offense, but the Bobcats kept pressing and cut the lead to two.
Jordan Richardson answered back with an important three to push the lead back to five points.
The zone defense frustrated the Bobcats, and WSU was able to extend its lead back to nine with 10:42 left in the game.
MSU kept the score close during the last half of the game, staying within 10 for most of the second half. The Wildcats weren’t able to get much breathing room in the second half.
Despite the pressure from MSU, the Wildcats were able to outlast them, thanks to strong play from the bench. Rahe said the bench play was crucial for WSU.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of Jordan Richardson, Gelaun Wheelwright and Byron Fulton,” Rahe said. “They (MSU) cut it down to two, and those kids went in there and fought like crazy.”
WSU will now return home where it will take on the University of Texas at Arlington on Saturday in the Bracketbusters game. It will be the last home game for the Wildcats this season.