After a big win over Oregon at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, the BYU men’s basketball team returns to the Marriott Center tonight for its first home game in five outings to play the Weber State Wildcats.
Weber State is coming off a double-overtime victory against San Jose State and is 5-1 on the season, with its only loss coming to BYU’s new WCC foe, Saint Mary’s.
The Cougars and Wildcats have one common opponent on the year, the Utah State Aggies. BYU fell to Utah State 69-62 in Logan, while Weber State held off Utah State in Ogden, 73-63.
BYU coach Dave Rose is undefeated in six games against Weber State, and the Cougars have never lost to the Wildcats in the Marriott Center. But Rose knows this year’s Wildcat team deserves respect.
“A handful of these players have had really big games against us, their freshman year, sophomore year and junior year,” he said. “Now they’re all playing together and we need to make sure that defensively we’re prepared for what we’re going to see because they’re all very good offensive skill players.”
Weber State has been led this season by junior guard Damian Lillard, who is also leading the NCAA in scoring at 28.2 points per game. In the Wildcats’ last two outings, Lillard scored 41 and 36 points. He is shooting 50 percent from the field, 44 percent on 3-pointers and 87 percent from the free-throw line.
The Wildcats have another great scoring guard in junior Scott Bamforth. Bamforth is averaging 15.3 points per game and scored a game-high 28 points in Weber State’s win over Utah State.
As Rose prepares his team for Weber State’s guards, he can’t help but think of his dynamic backcourt duo from last season.
“They’re [Lillard and Bamforth] both really good,” he said. “It reminds me of that combo we had last year with Jackson and Jimmer. They really make that team go. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
While Weber State is sound in the backcourt, the Wildcats will be without leading rebounder Kyle Bullinger, who suffered an arm injury after taking a hard fall against San Jose State. This came as a blow to Weber State, as it loses a major piece in defending BYU’s leading scorer and second leading rebounder, Noah Hartsock.
Hartsock was named the WCC’s player of the week for his efforts last week against Northern Arizona and Oregon. Against Oregon, Hartsock scored a career-high 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds and has been a consistent leader for the Cougars after the team’s first eight games.
Hartsock knows he and his teammates will need to continue to bring that same kind of effort as they host Weber State.
“Weber State is a dangerous team,” he said. “They have great shooters and great players. Damian Lillard is probably one of the best players not only in the state, but in the country, based on his scoring ability. It’s going to be a tough match-up and we just have to play hard and as a team.”
Tipoff for the game is at 7 p.m. and can be viewed on BYUtv or heard on KSL Newsradio.