A BYU fan, distraught following the Cougar basketball team's second instate loss of the season - this time a 86-74 setback to Weber State University - phoned the BYU post-game radio call-in show Wednesday night. How could BYU lose to Weber State, he wondered on air before asking, "Is Weber State even a four-year school?"

Even after 32 seasons playing - and winning the majority of the time - at the highest level of four-year college basketball, Weber State struggles to get respect. The school has won 20 or more games in a season 17 times and been to 10 NCAA tournaments. Under coach Ron Abegglen the Wildcats have a streak of two consecutive 20-win seasons going and have beaten Utah two of three times and, now, BYU twice in three years.The simple fact of the matter is BYU was outplayed by a quality NCAA Division I team Wednesday night in front of 9,707 fans in the Dee Event Center. The Cougars fell to 7-3, while the Wildcats improved to 5-3.

"Weber State's a good basketball team," said former Weber State guard and current BYU coach Roger Reid. "They just played well tonight and made some big shots. Maybe they wanted it more than we did."

Weber, the defending Big Sky Conference champions, beat the Cougars in two key areas that have been BYU strong suits this year - rebounding and free throw shooting. BYU entered the game averaging four more boards than their opponents, but the Wildcats outrebounded the Cougars 44-32.

As a team the Cougars were shooting an impressive 80 percent from the foul line going into the game but made only 6-of-11 attempts (54.5 percent). Weber State, on the other hand, came into the game with a 65-percent success rate on free throws as a team for the season, but the Wildcats made their first 23 foul shots and finished 28-of-30 from the line (93.3 percent) Wednesday.

"I don't want to talk about (the free throw shooting) because I might screw it up," Abegglen joked.

"The whole key to the ball game was that they outrebounded us bad," Reid said. "You can't win anyplace when you get outrebounded 44-32. A lot of their rebounds ended up being offensive rebound baskets."

Defensively, the Cougars had particular troubles against the two Wildcat guards, who combined for 51 points. Point guard Ruben Nembhard burned the nets for a career-high 31 points, including 22 in the second half, while off-guard Lewis Lofton added a career-high 20.

BYU shot 58 percent from the field in the first half but still trailed by two, 37-35, at intermission. The Cougars regained the lead early in the second half and were up by four, 49-45, after a Russell Larson 3-point shot with 14:34 to play.

Weber led by a bucket, 59-57, with under seven minutes to play in the game when Nembhard led the Wildcats on a decisive 13-0, three-minute run. Weber State's senior point guard scored eight points during the stretch - including a rare four-point play when he was fouled while shooting, and making, a 3-point attempt. The Wildcats led 72-57 with 3:21 to play and didn't make a single field goal the remainder of the way but netted 14 free throws in the final minutes after BYU began fouling to stop the clock.

"The homecourt advantage really helped," Nembhard said. "We don't usually get big crowds like this, so to get all these people to come out and see us play BYU was nice. Now they've all seen that we're a pretty good team, so hopefully they'll come out to more of our games."

Weber State forward Jim DeGraffenried scored 15 points and pulled down six rebounds while fellow-Wildcat forward Kirk Smith had 14 points and eight boards.

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BYU was led by Larson, who scored 22 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Junior center Kenneth Roberts added 16 points and nine boards and 6-10 forward Shane Knight had 13 points but only one rebound. All five BYU starters netted double figures, as guards Randy and Robbie Reid had 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Neither team got much production from their bench. BYU had four reserves play but none scored, while Weber had only four points off the bench, all from center Andy Smith.

The Cougars will take a few days off before resuming practices on Monday in preparation for the Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara Dec. 29-30. Weber will be in action Friday night against Wyoming in Laramie before traveling to West Lafayette, Ind., to play Purdue Dec. 28.

GAME NOTES: Cougar 7-foot center Cory Reader didn't play at all. "We probably should have gotten him in the ball game for his size and rebounding," coach Reid said afterward . . . Four of the five BYU starters played 38 or more minutes, while Nembhard played all 40 minutes for Weber State . . . BYU leads the series 13-7. All of Weber State's wins against BYU have been in Ogden . . . BYU is now 1-2 against instate competition (with a win over Southern Utah and losses to Weber and Utah State) while the Wildcats are 1-1, having lost to Utah earlier in the season.

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