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LOGAN - In the final of the Basketball Traveler's Invitation hosted by Utah State, the Weber State Wildcats found themselves down big for the second straight game, but this time couldn't overcome the deficit and lost to the Aggies 85-71 in Logan.
The Aggies opened up the game on a 14-2 run led by Tai Wesley who had 19 points and a game-high eight rebounds. He was also named the MVP for the Invitational. The Aggies also used a stifling defense holding the Wildcat shooters to just 36 percent inside the 3-point line and eighteen percent outside of it and walked into the half by 17 points.
I think we established an identity. We have got some toughness. Our kids are pretty good together. I think they have fallen into their roles now and are a lot more comfortable with how they're playing.
–WSU Head Coach Randy Rahe
Weber State was down 20 to Morehead State Tuesday night, but used a strong second half to come back and win 64-62. Wednesday the Wildcats were able to cut the lead to just nine points behind Damian Lillard's game-high 22 points, but an 18-4 Aggie run ruined any comeback attempt.
Utah State Head Coach Stew Morrill liked what he saw from his offense.
"Our offense was real aggressive and we shot high percentages and scored some points," said Morrill. "All those things were positive for us."
Wildcat Head Coach Randy Rahe gives a lot of credit to Utah State.
"We played a real good basketball team tonight. It's a team that's clicking on all cylinders right now. They are playing their best basketball of the year and they're tough to play against up here."
Kyle Bullinger, who scored 21 points and was named to the All-Invitational team along with Lillard, felt it was their slow start that cost them the game.
"We can't keep getting into a pattern of doing that; we are going to get into trouble after awhile and it bit us, our slow start bit us," said Bullinger. "At some point we knew that was going to happen, we have to start better."
Utah State also outrebounded Weber State 38 to 27 with thirteen of those on the offensive end, which turned into 19 second-chance points.
"Well we didn't rebound the ball very well, we haven't rebounded the ball well the last two games and we got to get that back," said Rahe. "If we are going to be a good a basketball team we have to do a much better job of that. Those are disheartening baskets when you get the stop and they come up with the offensive board and score a basket. It's hard."
Weber State was forced into 13 turnovers by an intense Utah State defense, which scored 21 points off of them.
"They got after pretty good. We had some unnecessary turnovers. I thought we were a little bit fatigued," observed Rahe. "I thought that set in a little bit and I thought that had something to do with it. We weren't as sharp mentally so I think some of those turnovers were caused by that too"
The Aggies got help from All-Invitational selectee Jared Quayle who chipped in 16 points and four assists. Modou Niang scored a career-high 13 points and was able to grab seven rebounds.
Senior guard Nick Hansen scored 11 points for the Wildcats.
Even with a disheartening loss, the Wildcats are pleased with the Invitational, winning two out of three games.
"Overall it was a good tournament for us; help us prepare for league. We saw three different styles of play I think it should help us down the road," said Rahe.
The Wildcats have now completed their pre-Big Sky season schedule, with a winning record and an idea of how the rest of their season is going to go.
Right now we just need to start fighting to begin with, start the game off right.
–WSU's Kyle Bullinger
"I think we established an identity. We have got some toughness. Our kids are pretty good together. I think they have fallen into their roles now and are a lot more comfortable with how they're playing," said Rahe.
Bullinger believes that the team has a never say die attitude.
"No matter how much we get down to start we aren't going to give up. Our coaching staff has done a good job instilling in our minds that we are never going to give up we are keep playing hard, we are going to keep fighting.
"Right now we just need to start fighting to begin with, start the game off right."
The Wildcats will take Christmas off and start Big Sky play again on New Year's Eve against Montana State.