WSU improves to 2-0 in conference play

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Scott Bamforth dribbles the ball in a game against University of Utah. WSU is now 2-0 in Big Sky Conference play and 10-3 overall.

The Weber State University men’s basketball team closed out 2011 strong, winning its second Big Sky Conference game, defeating Sacramento State University 74-63 at the Dee Events Center on New Year’s Eve.

The Wildcats never trailed in the game, as they went on to knock off the Hornets for the sixth consecutive time. WSU started out strong, scoring on its first possession of the game, thanks to an inside jumper by Kyle Tresnak. Five minutes into the game, the ’Cats had built a 15-5 lead.

Junior Damian Lillard started the game out slowly, only having seven points at the half, but the nation’s leading scorer turned in a strong second-half performance. He led the Wildcats in scoring for the 11th time this season, finishing with 22 points, and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. He was 5-12 from the field and 10-11 from the free-throw line.

Lillard hit two 3-pointers on the night, and moved closer to becoming the all-time leading 3-point shooter for WSU, needing just two more to claim the top spot.

Scott Bamforth, who had a strong shooting night, added 19 points. Bamforth got things going early on for the Wildcats, hitting four 3-point shots for the ’Cats.

Bamforth said SSU played a good game and gave the Wildcats a good challenge throughout the game.

“They are a good team,” Bamforth said. “They are really athletic, and are hard to guard inside. They’re a good team and stuck around, but I think we played better overall.”

Tresnak also turned in a strong performance for the Wildcats. He posted a season-high 18 points on 9-12 shooting. Tresnak had a strong game inside for WSU, which Head Coach Randy Rahe said was important for the team.

“I challenged the post guys a little bit, and Kyle really responded,” Rahe said. “He’s a tough kid, but he needed to play with more toughness.”

Bamforth also said that having a strong inside presence helps the guards find more shooting opportunities.

“They are all playing really well,” Bamforth said. “We try to get them touches as much as we can, and they do a great job of kicking it back out to the guards.”

After the game, Tresnak said being dominant inside is always the first thing the team tries to establish in a game. He said having a strong inside presence helps the rest of the team throughout the game.

“It usually is the game plan,” Tresnak said. “We were trying to get inside and see if we could go inside-out. It started to work in the beginning so we kept doing it.”

The Wildcats shot 43 percent from the field and held the Hornets to 40 percent shooting. SSU out-rebounded the ‘Cats 37-29. WSU had 32 points in the bench, compared to 14 for the Hornets.

WSU is currently tied for the top spot in the conference with the University of Montana. The Wildcats have also remained undefeated at home, going 8-0 at the Dee Events Center.

The Wildcats improved to 10-3 overall. They will now head to Eastern Washington University, where they will play their first road conference game of the season.

EWU is currently sitting in fourth place in the Big Sky, with a conference record of 1-1 and an overall record of 7-7. The Eagles opened Big Sky play with a road trip to Montana. They were able to come away with a victory against Montana State University and an eight-point loss to the University of Montana.