College basketball: Weber State fights through loss of star guard
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Ogden • When Damian Lillard's season came to a crunching halt in Tulsa on Dec. 16, his Weber State teammates refused to believe that the sky was falling.

The Wildcats have lost 3 of 5 game since the reigning Big Sky Conference Player of the Year had his foot stepped on, breaking bones. The losses have included a gritty 6-point battle with BYU as well as a pair of conference road games.

No doubt, Lillard would have influenced those games, especially the game against the Cougars and the matchup with Jimmer Fredette that was eagerly anticipated as a battle between the state's two best collegiate point guards.

Yet, anyone looking for panic or pity won't find them inside the Dee Events Center, where WSU plays Sacramento State on Thursday and Idaho State on Saturday.

"Nothing changed, really," said senior guard Lindsey Hughey. "We have the same goals."

Among those goals is a third consecutive league title, which makes defending the home court all the more important.

But just how does a team make up for the loss of nearly 20 points a game as well as a leader?

"We have confidence in ourselves," junior forward Kyle Bullinger said. "We understand we lost the best player in the Big Sky. We don't have time to sit back and panic."

After Lillard's injury, the core group of Wildcats didn't say much. There wasn't a big meeting. Through their actions, it was evident that the Wildcats were determined to show they could compete as a group.

"That was not surprising," said WSU coach Randy Rahe, who has also had to deal a shoulder injury that has slowed sharpshooting wing Scott Bamforth.

"But it was pleasing to me. I've been real pleased with the guys. They've been practicing their butts off every day and fighting hard."

Weber State finally broke through on the road with a one-point conference win at Northern Arizona. Hughey hit a clutch three-pointer in the final seconds.

"If you don't bring it every night," he said, "guys will beat you. This is just something that comes with the game."

martyr@sltrib.com