OGDEN — Still licking its wounds from a lopsided loss at BYU, the Weber State men's basketball team tries to bounce back when it takes on another in-state foe, Southern Utah University, tonight in the Dee Events Center.
The Wildcats got clobbered by the Cougars 94-66 on Wednesday night in Provo, where Weber State shot a season-low 33 percent from the field and just 22 percent, also its worst of the year, from 3-point range. And on the defensive end of the floor, the Wildcats allowed 42 points in the paint and 94 points overall — the most by a Weber State squad in five years.
WSU head coach Randy Rahe was frustrated by many aspects of Wednesday's defeat, but he's certain his ballclub will be quick to put that one behind them.
"We'll regroup," he said. "We'll get back and get practicing and get fighting and get tough — that's what we do and that's what we're gonna do. We're gonna get rid of this game and forget about it and we're gonna get back to work, and we're gonna come back and fight like crazy and compete and tweak a few things.
"But they'll bounce back; they'll bounce back. It's one game."
Southern Utah, which will join the Big Sky Conference next year, is coming off a 61-55 loss at Oral Roberts in its Summit League opener. The Thunderbirds are led by junior guard Damon Heuir, who averages 11.9 points per game, and senior forward Ramell Taylor, who averages 11.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Two more T-birds, Matt Massey and Jackson Stevenett, are also in double digits with 11 ppg apiece.
SUU is coached by Roger Reid, a former BYU head coach and a Weber State graduate (1968) who played basketball and baseball for the Wildcats. His career record of 196-60 includes a 44-84 mark at Southern Utah, where he has spent six seasons.
Weber State, which has beaten SUU in each of their last four meetings and leads the series 22-6, is led by junior guard Damian Lillard. Despite a season-low 15 points in Wednesday's loss to the Cougars, Lillard still leads the country in scoring with 26.3 points per game. He had his first career double-double with a career-high 10 rebounds at BYU and is second on the team in rebounding with 6.1 per game.
The Wildcats have pretty much owned the Thunderbirds in Ogden, piling up a 15-2 record in the Dee Center with wins in 11 of their last 12 meetings there.
Junior forward Frank Otis injured his knee in Wednesday's game, and his status for tonight's contest is undetermined. The Wildcats were already without 6-foot-6 senior forward Kyle Bullinger, the team's leading rebounder, who had started every game of his career but now will be out at least another month after suffering a dislocated elbow a week ago against San Jose State.
The shorthanded 'Cats took the redshirt off freshman guard Gelaun Wheelwright in Wednesday's game, and he responded with an eight-point, six-rebound performance.
A year ago, Lillard scored 22 points to pace Weber State to a 77-71 victory over the Thunderbirds at Cedar City. Darin Mahoney scored a career-high 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds in that game.