The Utes could take little comfort in holding Damian Lillard under his average.
Lillard scored "only" 22 points against the University of Utah last Thursday, dropping his average to 25.4 points per game, but the Wildcats didn't need any more from the junior point guard from Oakland to walk all over the Utes in an 80-51 blowout at the Dee Events Center.
Lillard is tied with Creighton's Doug McDermott for first in the nation in scoring as of Sunday afternoon and has been at the top of the leaderboard since late November.
No. 1 may lead the nation in scoring, but the NBA prospect sets the example for his fellow Wildcats in other ways, too, and doesn't shy away from his leadership role.
"After sitting out last season (with a broken foot), one of the main things I think I've developed is maturity and poise," Lillard said. "I think my teammates look at me a lot of times during the game when things are going right and wrong. (Thursday) in the second half, (Utah) kind of got rolling on us, started to get some high-percentage shots and I felt like I needed to be calm because my teammates would look to me and that might get them to realize everything was all right. Even when we had our run, we were making shots and everything was good, they saw that I kept it at an even keel -- don't get too high just because we're up, because it could happen to us."
"That was my whole mindset, just to make sure we stay focused."
Weber State coach Randy Rahe said the team takes its cues from Lillard's on-court demeanor.
"He's not an overly emotional kid but he's got a lot of confidence and I think that helps with the rest of our guys," Rahe said. "They see him being very level-headed, very low-key -- not low-key but confident without being too crazy about it. Our guys take a lot of that calmness and confidence from him."
Weber State had its best night from the free throw line this season against Utah, making 12 of 13 from the line.
That's saying plenty, considering the Wildcats are now third in the country in free throw percentage (.793) as of Sunday afternoon, behind only Denver (.814) and Davidson (.801).
Among Wildcats, only a tenth of a percent separates Lillard (.892) from junior guard Scott Bamforth (.891) for the top spot in the Big Sky Conference. Portland State's Charles Odumm is right there too, shooting an identical percentage to Bamforth. Lillard isn't just the best shooter from the line in the league, he's also taken the most free throws (83) and made more (74) than almost anyone else has attempted. In the league, only Portland State's Chehales Tapscott has more attempts (79) than Lillard has makes.
Big Sky beginnings
Conference play hasn't even started and already the Big Sky looks different than it did at the start of the season.
Two league coaches stepped down during preseason play, Northern Arizona's Mike Adras and Idaho State's Joe O'Brien, leaving the Lumberjacks and Bengals with interim head coaches.
Weber State's 8-3 record is the best among Big Sky schools to date, followed by Montana (7-5). Idaho State is the worst at 2-9.
The Wildcats play their first league games this week, with the Bengals on tap for Thursday at 7 p.m., followed by Sacramento State (5-6) on Saturday, Dec. 31. Please note that Weber State has changed the time of the New Year's Eve game to a 2 p.m. start.
Vote of confidence
Weber State handed Utah its worst loss in the history of the in-state rivalry last week, but that didn't change Rahe's opinion of new Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.
See more of Rahe's thoughts about the Utes' coaching staff at http://blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog.
Roy Burton covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner. Follow him on Twitter @RoyBurton and read his WSU posts at blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog.