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After Creighton setback, can Cougars get back on track at Weber State?

Saturday marks BYU’s fourth in-state game, out of five, this season

SHARE After Creighton setback, can Cougars get back on track at Weber State?
BYU’s Alex Barcello dribbles against Creighton’s Alex O’Connell during a game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.

BYU’s Alex Barcello dribbles against Creighton’s Alex O’Connell during a game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. The Cougars hope to rebound Saturday when they face Weber State in Ogden.

Matt Gade, for the Deseret News

A week after suffering an 83-71 loss against Creighton last Saturday, BYU returns to action with an in-state battle.

BYUhoopsTV

Cougars on the air


BYU (8-2)

at Weber State (9-2)

Saturday, 6 p.m. MST

Dee Events Center

TV: KJZZ/ESPN+

Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM


The Cougars, who dropped out of The Associated Press Top 25 this week, visit Weber State Saturday (6 p.m. MST, KJZZ/ESPN+) at the Dee Events Center.

It marks BYU’s fourth in-state game, out of five, this season. 

The Wildcats (9-2) opened with an 8-0 record — their best start since beginning the 1985-86 campaign with a 10-0 mark — before dropping a 94-60 decision at Washington State and then falling at home, 95-80, against Utah State last Wednesday

“This Weber State team is tremendous,” BYU coach Mark Pope told BYUtv last Tuesday. “They’re just a hairsbreadth away from being undefeated right now.”

Guard Koby McEwen leads the Wildcats in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game. He poured in a season-high 30 in a victory over Ball State on Nov. 19. Forward Dillon Jones is No. 2 in the country in double-doubles (seven) and defensive rebounds per game, averaging 8.6. Jones, the 2020-21 Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year, averages 12.8 points and 10.4 rebounds and his shooting 59.3% from the floor. 

Against Creighton, the Cougars fell behind by 21 in the second half before rallying to cut the deficit to 10. But BYU couldn’t get any closer in a contest that saw Alex Barcello score 28 points and Seneca Knight finish with a season-high 13. Gideon George came off the bench and pulled down 11 rebounds.

“That’s why you play these games. We’re not playing these games to have an unblemished schedule,” Pope said. “We’re playing these games so that we can get better. And if we do this right, this Creighton game, as painful as it was, is going to help us get better. That’s why you do it.”

“That’s why you play these games. We’re not playing these games to have an unblemished schedule. We’re playing these games so that we can get better. And if we do this right, this Creighton game, as painful as it was, is going to help us get better. That’s why you do it.” — Mark Pope

BYU has not lost back-to-back regular-season games in three seasons under Pope.

The Cougars have spent much of the week finishing up final exams. After Saturday’s game, BYU will prepare for a trip to Honolulu, where the Cougars will participate in the Diamond Head Classic next Wednesday against South Florida.

BYU would like to build some momentum before heading to Hawaii.

The Cougars didn’t enjoy their last trip to Ogden.

In December 2018, Weber State drilled BYU 113-103, snapping the Cougars’ 15-game winning streak against the Wildcats in what turned out to be coach Dave Rose’s final season at the helm. Prior to that, Weber State hadn’t defeated BYU since 2003. 

Last season, on Dec. 23, the Cougars beat the Wildcats 87-79 at Vivint Arena. 

Earlier this week, BYU center Richard Harward, who has been dealing with what Pope called a “cardiovascular issue,” announced on his Instagram account that he will be sidelined for the remainder of the season because of the situation.

“After consulting with my doctors and coaches I have decided to take a step back from basketball,” Harward wrote. “The condition affecting my heart has developed further complications. For my health and safety, it has been determined I will be out the remainder of the season. I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness and support.”

Pope said on his coach’s show Tuesday that Harward met with doctors this week and it was determined that he shouldn’t play this season. 

“Super tough for Rich. Super tough for our team,” Pope said. “He’ll be recovering for at least the next month or two hopefully with good progress. We’ll go from there.” 

What about Harward’s future? 

“He’s got a great future. He’s an incredible young man,” Pope said. “In terms of basketball, we just don’t know.”

The Cougars have lost two key big men that they were counting on before the season. Not only are they without Harward, but forward Gavin Baxter sustained a season-ending knee injury in the first half of BYU’s 72-65 overtime loss at Utah Valley University.