PROVO -- Despite a disappointing loss to a good BYU basketball team, the Weber State Wildcats are proving one thing; they are a tough, persistent team.
The Wildcats came in to Provo looking to upset BYU on their home court. The Cougars proved to be too tough and in the end defeated the Wildcats 87-70 Friday night.
"We knew we could come up here and fight and have a chance to win," said Weber State's Damian Lillard, who led the Wildcats with 23 points. "We felt like we were on the verge of an upset."
The Wildcats gave BYU their biggest challenge of the season, hanging with the Cougars throughout the entire first half and going into halftime down only four. An accomplishment, considering BYU has walked into the half leading by an average of 17.8 points this season.
Coming into this game the Wildcats (1-4) had struggled with their consistency and understood this type of game can act as a springboard for the rest of the season.
"It's a big game," said new recruit Lindsay Hughey, who dropped in 16 points. "So we just wanted to give our best swing."
The Wildcats were able to stay in the game and take the lead a few times early in the second half by out-rebounding the Cougars 37 to 31; 16 of those boards were offensive.
"I was really pleased with our rebounds this game," said Weber State Head Coach Randy Rahe. "It's just determination to go get some. Our guys chased it, and chased it good."
Eventually the Cougar defense wore down the Wildcats- forcing 18 turnovers on the night, 11 on steals- and the BYU offense got hot.
After a poor shooting first half, the Cougars exploded to shoot almost 64 percent in second half.
"I think we helped them out by turning over the ball about two or three times in a row and they got away from us," said Rahe. That sequence of turnovers allowed the Cougar offense to take charge and go on a 24-7 run late in the second half.
"It's hard to avoid a run from that team somewhere in the second half," Rahe said.
The Cougars were led by Jimmer Fredette's 23 points. Jackson Emery and Jonathan Tavernari contributed 15 and 14 points respectively.
"We had them down, but they are a good team. They fought back and they ended up on top," said a frustrated Lillard, "We could have taken better care of the ball. They capitalized on all the mistakes we made."
"The nature of it is, when you come to the Marriott Center you better have seven or eight or nine guys to play really well if you're going to pull one out," said Rahe. "We just came up short."
One bright spot for Weber State was its bench. Matt Washington (six points, four rebounds) and Franklin Sessions (seven points, four rebounds and four assists) brought a high level of energy for Rahe's team.
"I thought we got some good bench play," said Rahe, "I was really pleased with them, not just from a scoring standpoint, but from an energy standpoint."
"They bring a lot to the team, they provide energy, and that's what they did," added Lillard, who also added four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Despite the lopsided loss, Rahe was pleased with his team's effort and never-say-die attitude.
"We got high character kids that are going to fight you every step of the way, no matter what the situation is," said Rahe. "The game was a lot closer than what it ended to be, it felt like it was closer game.
"The nature of our team is that we have a lot of character, a lot of toughness, we got guys who are going to stick together and they're going to battle through."
"We do not give up; I am not going to back down from anybody" said Lillard.
He'll get a chance to prove it against the University of Utah inside the Dee Events Center on December 2nd.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.