Davion Berry’s career-high 25 points for Weber State was overshadowed Saturday night by Brandon Davies’ career-high 33 for BYU.
“I just wanted to be aggressive, keep attacking,” the junior forward from Oakland, Calif., said. “(Weber State) coach (Randy) Rahe and his staff told me to attack and that’s what I did — don’t worry about nothing else, just attacking the basket.”
Berry got hot early in the second half, helping the Wildcats close a double-digit gap down to two points before BYU pulled away for good in a 78-68 victory that ended WSU’s 20-game home winning streak at the Dee Events Center.
Rahe said WSU’s charge was fueled by better defensive intensity.
“They came out really aggressive and they got some transition game going. They put us back on our heels,” he said. “I thought we defended back on our heels for a lot of the first half and that just can’t be us. We have to be on the attack and we have to be the aggressor. I challenged them at halftime to sell out. Let’s go get in them, challenge them, pressure them more, be a little more physical. I thought we did that the first 10 minutes of the second half.”
But the Wildcats couldn’t sustain it, Rahe said, as Davies and sophomore Tyler Haws wore them down.
Weber State came into Saturday’s game against BYU as the fourth-best team in the country at guarding the 3-point line — and held the Cougars to just 2 of 10 from beyond the arc at the Dee Events Center.
Davies made sure it didn’t matter. The senior forward dominated the paint, shooting 14 for 17 from the field.
With that and 23 points from Tyler Haws, BYU didn’t need the 3s on Saturday. Weber State did, but the Cougars were just as effective at preventing the Wildcats from making up ground from beyond the arc. WSU was 4 of 19 from deep (21.1 percent).
Free but costly
Weber State was the top team in the country in free throw percentage last season; this year, the ’Cats are still hunting for their rhythm at the line.
A 14 for 25 performance Saturday dropped their percentage to 66.3 percent this year, down from 81.4 percent in 2011-12.
The Wildcats don’t miss in practice, Rahe says, so it has to be nerves.
“Last year we led the nation in free throw shooting, but we’ve got some newer guys, playing more important roles, so we’ve got some inexperience, we’ve got some younger guys.
“I see some nerves. That’s all I see. We didn’t make ‘em. I’m not going to panic about it. With more game time, more experience, I still think we’re going to be a really good free throw shooting team.”
As for getting his players more experience, Rahe would have liked to play more games before starting Big Sky Conference play this week. With the expanded 20-game league schedule, the Wildcats travel Thursday to Eastern Washington and Saturday to Portland State for a pre-Christmas tipoff of the conference race.
“A team like we have this year, and I keep going back to we’ve got some inexperience and some younger guys, they needed to play more games. The more games they play, the more comfortable they’ll get,” he said.
Weber State was scheduled to participate in a Thanksgiving tournament in Laramie at Wyoming, but the Cowboys backed out of the deal last January or February, Rahe said, and WSU couldn’t find another tourney.
“I wanted that tournament bad because we needed some experience,” he said, “but we didn’t get it so that’s the way it goes."
Rahe’s analysis of his team going into Big Sky play: “I feel like we’re heading in the right direction, I really do. … Defensively, I think we’ve got our identity down, what we need to become. Offensively, I think each game we’ll smooth it out a little bit better and play better offense. I like where we’re headed. I really do. We’ve got so much room to go. The ceiling of this team is pretty good.”
Weber State’s Wildcat Club luncheon will be held today at noon at the Ogden Marriott Hotel on 24th Street. The luncheons are open to the public; cost is $10 per person. For more information, call the Wildcat Club at 801-626-6576 or visit weberstatesports.com.
Roy Burton covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner. Follow @RoyBurton on Twitter, read more about the Wildcats at blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog or reach him at email@example.com.