The Dee Events Center at Weber State--lovingly known as the Purple Palace for its grand assembly of purple seats--is a fond part of my childhood. On this court I played with friends in a local little league basketball championship. When Harold Arceneaux and Eddie Gill ran this town in 1999, I was a seventh grader. I stormed the court to celebrate the Big Sky championship with that team--that squad that would strike a blow for The Mid-Majority by outplaying North Carolina in the NCAA tournament.
Weber State's Scott Bamforth owned this arena in Ogden on Tuesday night, and for all the entertainment and diversion the 9,000-plus fans received, perhaps the junior sharpshooter got some needed temporary relief of his own. While last year's fourth-best three-point shooter in the nation was raining down treys on the way to a victory over Utah State, his newborn son was still in the hospital receiving intensive care to his new little body. Hopefully the two different times Bamforth brought the Dee to its feet in his 28-point effort gave him some reprieve before returning with his wife to his infant's side.
It was a battle tapping into the heart of college sports--an in-state matchup. Utah State had gained the early leg up on state bragging rights by beating BYU at home last week. Weber State, meanwhile, hadn't been able to beat Utah State in four years. But the return of Damian Lillard from a season-ending foot injury last year had hopes high in Ogden that the Wildcats could claim state supremacy and greatness beyond. The arena had the feel of a "state title" atmosphere, as with part of Utah State's student section traveling to the game, it reminded me of many of the high school state championship tournaments I had attended here.
As Utah State struggled to finish many good looks at the rim with the first half winding down (which occurred most of the night for the Aggies), Weber State poured in threes like layups. After a Brockeith Pane three pulled Utah State within 23-18 with eight minutes left, Bamforth hit his third three of the game. Then Lillard hit. Then Bamforth. Lillard again. Then power forward Byron Fulton dropped a three home, leaving the Aggie fans around me despondent and the Wildcats up 42-27 at the half.
You can always count on a Stew-Morrill-coached Aggies team to fight. As Weber State cooled off, Utah State chipped away at the deficit even after consecutive threes from Bamforth and Kyle Bullinger stretched that deficit to 18 points. After a Preston Medlin three-pointer cut the hole to single digits, Brady Jardine stuffed in a monster putback dunk with two minutes left to bring the Aggies within six. But ultimately, Utah State couldn't make up for its missed free throws (14-23 on the night) and Weber State prevailed 73-63. It was only the Wildcats' second game of the season, but the satisfying win had the students lingering at their seats as cheerleaders shot streamers from t-shirt cannons, the win adding to the hope that this season will be a special one.
at WEBER STATE 73, UTAH STATE 63 11/15/2011
UTAH STATE 1-1 (0-0) -- M. Grim 5-11 9-12 19; B. Jardine 4-7 1-3 9; B. Pane 5-11 2-2 14; P. Medlin 4-9 0-1 9; M. Bruneel 4-7 0-0 8; S. Thornton 1-1 0-1 2; A. Thoseby 0-1 0-0 0; E. Farris 0-1 2-2 2; K. Reed 0-2 0-2 0; B. Clifford 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 14-23 63. WEBER STATE 2-0 (0-0) -- S. Bamforth 7-12 7-8 28; D. Lillard 4-16 7-8 17; K. Bullinger 3-8 1-2 8; K. Tresnak 2-4 2-2 6; D. Mahoney 0-2 1-2 1; F. Otis 1-3 1-3 3; B. Fulton 3-9 2-2 10; J. Richardson 0-0 0-0 0; J. Hajek 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 21-27 73.
Three-point goals: USU 3-9 (B. Pane 2-3; P. Medlin 1-4; M. Bruneel 0-2), WEB 12-23 (K. Bullinger 1-2; D. Lillard 2-9; B. Fulton 2-3; S. Bamforth 7-9); Rebounds: USU 34 (B. Jardine 14), WEB 37 (K. Bullinger 13); Assists: USU 3 (B. Pane 2), WEB 9 (D. Lillard 4); Total Fouls -- USU 24, WEB 21; Fouled Out: USU-B. Pane; WEB-None.