Despite a comeback attempt, the Weber State University men’s basketball team fell on the road to Loyola Marymount University in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, 84-78 in overtime.
Head Coach Randy Rahe said he was proud of the way his team fought back, and was let down the team came up short.
“I felt what we saw today is what this group of kids is all about,” Rahe said, “and what this program is about.”
Rahe said he felt LMU was the better team, but said the Wildcats were able to keep it close thanks to a strong team effort.
“Tonight, to be honest, we were overmatched talent-wise,” Rahe said. “ . . . But together we really had a chance to win the game . . . I’m sick to my stomach that we didn’t finish it off.”
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead, but after going up in the early stages of the half, the Lions cut the deficit to two points, making it 12-10.
Then LMU went on a nine-point run, jumping ahead.
WSU tried to keep the score close for much of the half, but the Lions controlled the game for the greater part of the half. For much of the half, LMU led by 10 points or more. LMU also outrebounded the Wildcats in the first half.
Just before halftime, Gelaun Wheelwright hit a three to make the score at the break 41-31. Wheelwright played well for WSU in the first half, racking up eight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers.
In the second half, the Wildcats started slow, and struggled with turnovers early in the half, but were able to find their stride and cut the lead to seven points with 15:21 left to play.
Damian Lillard then hit a jumper to cut the lead to five. Lillard converted three quick field goals to keep WSU in the game. LMU quickly put the lead back to nine points with two quick buckets of its own.
Throughout the game, WSU was plagued by many missed chances. Halfway through the second half, Wheelwright had a chance to cut the LMU lead, but missed an open layup for the second time on the night.
The Lions pushed the lead back to nine points with nine minutes remaining in the game.
After the midpoint in the half, LMU started to pull away.
With 3:57 to go in the game, Lillard cut the lead to four points with a pair of free throws. On WSU’s next possession, Lillard was fouled again and cut the LMU lead to two points, making it 63-61.
Once again, Lillard found his way to the foul line a minute later, this time with a chance to tie the game with 1:35 left in the game. Lillard tied the game with his 20th point of the game. It was his 14th foul shot in the game.
LMU retook the lead with a three on its next possession. With 22 seconds remaining, Lillard hit a three to tie the game at 68. The Lions then brought the ball down and missed the shot, and the game went to overtime.
Rahe said he could tell his team was going to fight back, and knew they would play hard till the end of the game.
“You could see it in their eyes — they were going to keep fighting until they found a way to get back in the ball game, and they did that,” Rahe said.
The Lions started fast in overtime, scoring the first four points. With 55 seconds remaining in overtime, WSU still trailed by four points.
The Wildcats pulled within two, but two LMU free throws sealed the game for the Lions.
Wheelwright finished the game with a career-high 19 points, which passed his previous high of 15. Lillard was the top scorer for the Wildcats with 27 points.
The loss marks the end of WSU’s season; the team will now begin preparations for next season.
Lillard said it is tough to end the season on a loss, but that he feels he can feel pleased with this year overall.
“I think as the days go by,” Lillard said, “I’ll reflect how the season went and think about how good of a season we really had as a team and individually.”
Lillard said he is still unsure of what he will do next season.
“I haven’t made a decision yet,” Lillard said. “Me and Coach Rahe will talk, and I’ll talk with my family and we’ll see what happens.”