Mike Tyson, the boxing champ and one of the all-time great intimidators, had a saying: "Everybody has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth."
Mike was right and the correctness of his statement was as obvious as the tattoo on his face as Weber State took one right in the kisser courtesy of the BYU Cougars Wednesday night at the Marriott Center.
Undersized but still remarkably talented and highly anxious to test themselves against BYU on its home floor, the Wildcats were TKO'd in the first half and never really got up on the canvas. They had a plan going into the game, but once the Cougars got physical with them it was over quickly.
Final score: 94-66 and it didn't even feel that close.
"I think it got away from us pretty quick and we just couldn't recover," said WSU's star guard Damian Lillard.
Winless all-time in Provo, it seemed as though if ever the Wildcats were going to end that horrible drought it was going to be this time around. Although they would be forced to play first without forward Kyle Bullinger (elbow injury) and later without forward Frank Otis (knee injury), the 'Cats still had Lillard and his 28.2 points-per-game average. So they went into the game with a plan to make the Cougars play defense. They wanted to work the ball around, take -- and make -- good shots and generally put pressure on BYU's big men right from the start.
For a few minutes there they did just that, but after going up 12-9 early on, the 'Cats began to buckle under a 13-3 run. Later, the Cougars ripped off a staggering 16-6 run and pretty much never looked back.
Suddenly dreams of what might have been turned into the nightmare of reality and it left the 'Cats stumbling around the floor trying to catch their breath. The Cougars defended Lillard perfectly, using a double-team to force the ball out of his hands. Once he gave it up, they kept the extra man on him just long enough to disrupt the action.
"They got us sped up, we took quick shots and they can get up the court real fast," Lillard said. "Our missed shots led to fastbreak points (for the Cougars)."
As BYU built its lead the situation only snowballed. The Cougars' confidence soared, the Wildcats' evaporated.
"We needed to avoid giving them early baskets and we needed to be physical with them," WSU coach Randy Rahe said. "Obviously we didn't get that done tonight."
But give credit to the Cougars for doing what they did. They had their own plan and they did an excellent job of executing it.
"I thought they were absolutely terrific," Rahe said. "They are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now. My hat goes off to them, they played absolutely terrific."
Although nobody on the team was talking about it, word around the media was that Weber State might just have the state's best team this season. Consequently, BYU's players felt they had something to prove and with the game on their home floor that turned into a bad concoction.
Ever the competitor, Lillard tipped his cap to the Cougars, but clearly it didn't sit well with him.
"I don't think one game can change it," Lillard said. "They beat us pretty bad tonight but it could have gone any way. They made shots tonight, we didn't. They were the more aggressive defensive team. But we beat Utah State (and) Utah State beat them.
"Maybe it's a home court thing. That's not an excuse, but who knows? I don't think one game changes who's the best team in state."
Maybe not, but on Wednesday it wasn't hard to see the difference between the two fighters. And unfortunately for the Wildcats it all began to fall apart after they got punched in the mouth.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247