WSU vs BYU 04

Jerrick Harding, 10, for Weber State beats BYU's defense to the basket during Saturday night's game at Weber State University on Dec. 1, 2018.

There’s not too much time for Weber State men’s basketball to ride the high of an in-state victory.

A few days after defeating BYU 113-103, the Wildcats hit the road for what, on paper, is the toughest week on the schedule. WSU plays at Fresno State on Wednesday night, then plays Utah State at Saturday’s Beehive Classic in Salt Lake City.

Nevada is the unquestioned frontrunner to win the Mountain West Conference, and early returns show Fresno and USU might be two of the Pack’s best challengers.

Fresno State (5-2) enters on a three-game winning streak with victories over Hawaii, Pacific (in overtime) and Cal Poly. The Bulldogs are currently rated No. 84 (of 353 Division I teams) by Ken Pomeroy.

The Wildcats (5-2, 144 KenPom) are making their second trip to Fresno in as many seasons after losing 83-71 on Nov. 30, 2017. In that contest, WSU fell behind 20-4 and clawed back into the game. Brekkott Chapman scored 21 points on only nine field-goal attempts and grabbed eight rebounds.

Fresno’s returning leading scorer from that game is Deshon Taylor, who scored 18 points after getting to the line for 13 free-throw attempts. Taylor, now a senior, averages 19.3 points per game to lead the Bulldogs. Braxton Huggins is close behind, averaging 19.0 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the 3-point line.

That game tips off at 8 p.m. MST. A live stream will be available on TheMW.com with a radio call on 1430 AM KLO.

Then it’s back to Utah for the second annual Beehive Classic. After falling 74-68 to BYU in last year’s classic, it’s now the Wildcats’ turn to play Utah State.

The Aggies (7-1) are one of the biggest surprises in the country. Aside from Bountiful alum Sam Merrill playing a strong point guard, nobody really knew what to expect out of USU in head coach Craig Smith’s first year.

Utah State can score and win big. Every one of USU’s wins has come by 19 or more points, coming against foes like Saint Mary’s, UC Irvine and Montana State. The Aggies began the season rated No. 168 in Ken Pomeroy’s numbers and have rocketed to No. 54 entering this week.

There’s not much the Aggies don’t do well so far this season. They shoot well from all areas of the floor, get to the foul line and convert (79.9 percent as a team is fifth-best nationally) and rebound on both ends of the floor.

Merrill is still a catalyst, of course, averaging 21.3 points per game and shooting 44.4 percent from deep. Behind him are five players averaging at least 7.5 points per game, including newcomers Neemias Queta and John Knight III.

Weber State has won two straight against the Aggies and is 2-0 all-time against USU in Salt Lake City.

That game tips off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and is the second of the two Beehive Classic games, coming after BYU vs. Utah at noon in Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Tickets start at $20 and are good for both games. In addition to other revenue sharing with schools, a portion of each ticket goes directly into the scholarship funds of the four schools. Last year’s games put $30,000 into scholarships.

BYU-Utah will air on ESPNU. Weber State-Utah State will air regionally on AT&T Sports Network.

Contact Brett Hein at bhein@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @bhein3/@WeberHQ and at facebook.com/WeberStateSports.

Brett Hein is the sports editor and covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner.

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