By AARON SHILL
BYU showed up about 10 minutes too late for Thursday’s 83-80 loss to Weber State in Ogden.
After falling behind by 18 points in the first half, mounting a comeback against the high-scoring Wildcats was like trying to squeeze the air out of the Goodyear blimp.
But BYU almost pulled it off.
Behind 19 points from junior college transfer Harold Arceneaux, the Wildcats jumped to a 14-0 lead before the fans had a chance to get the straws in their drinks.
The Cougars regrouped and began erasing points off the lead, but Weber’s quick start proved to be enough to hold off BYU’s comeback bid.
“It just seemed like we were always trying to dig ourselves out of a bigger hole,” said freshman Mark Bigelow, who scored a team-high 19 points.
After cutting the Wildcat lead to 48-40 to start the second half, BYU was poised to take over the game with just under 15 minutes to play. The Cougars appeared to have trimmed the margin to six points, but an offensive foul called on Nathan Cooper wiped out the sophomore’s tip-in of a Bigelow miss.
Weber State responded with six straight points that included a three-pointer by junior Eddie Gill. The eight-point swing eventually made the difference in the scoring column.
BYU threatened again with just over five minutes to play, cutting the lead to 66-61 on a Mark Michaelis’ jumper and a Bigelow free throw. But missed free throws and some timely offensive rebounds by Wildcat senior Andy Jensen extinguished the Cougar comeback.
The loss was frustrating for a BYU team that did so many things right. The Cougars out-shot and out-rebounded Weber, while shooting over 50 percent from three-point land.
The problem? Turnovers — 25 of them in all. The turnovers were particularly damaging in the first half, where 16 Cougar give-aways rendered a 12-of-20 shooting effort meaningless.
BYU head coach Steve Cleveland said his team looked nervous and uneasy to start the game.
“It was really uncharacteristic of us to turn the ball over that often in the first half,” he said.
Weber took full advantage of BYU’s miscues by pushing its transition offense. After a barrage of three-pointers and layups, the Wildcats were ahead 26-8. Arceneaux led the run with 10 points in the first ten minutes that included a pair of three-pointers.
“You just can’t do that,” Bigelow said. “Especially against this Weber State team, because they love to run. They just got out and ran us to death.”
According to Cleveland, the Cougars came into the game hoping to work the ball inside. However, turnovers prevented BYU from getting early scoring opportunities in the post and exploiting the Wildcats’ lack of size on the front line.
BYU regrouped behind the inside play of Silester Rivers. The junior forward, who is still slowed by a recent knee injury, put 16 points on the board.
But despite the improved effort, the deficit was too large for the young and inexperienced team to overcome on the road, Cleveland said.
“Against a team that is as athletic and difficult to guard as a Weber State team is, you’re down 18 in the first half, it’s difficult to make that up,” Cleveland said.