Utes Win in Final Tune-Up

By and

The men’s basketball exhibition slate concluded Wednesday with a 73-60 victory over the London Leopards, thanks to a dominant second half.

But coach Rick Majerus isn’t impressed with the two preseason wins.

“I never feel ready [for the regular season], but especially not this year,” Majerus said. “We’ve got to get back to the style of play that I’m accustomed to.”

There was little of that style Wednesday night, as Utah’s exhibition win was once again hard to come by. Although the Leopards recorded double-digit losses to Bucknell and Northern Iowa, they came ready for the U.

The London-based club team jumped out to an 18-7 lead at the 12:24 mark in the first half.

Enter senior Phil Cullen, albeit briefly. Cullen sank two treys and two free throws in a six minute span, cutting the Leopard lead to three points at 20-17.

For the game, Cullen scored 15 points and had two assists in limited minutes (15).

“We couldn’t play Phil a lot if we wanted to,” Majerus said, referring to Cullen’s summer of pitching minor league baseball. “Baseball is one game that you can be out of shape to play…but [Cullen] is trying harder. The effort is there.”

Cullen agreed.

“I’m not where I should be,” he said. “I couldn’t go a complete game.”

Cullen’s quality minutes were helpful, but the Utes still narrowly trailed at halftime 34-33.

Majerus wasn’t happy with the energy.

“I told Chris [Burgess] at halftime I can’t imagine a senior not being ready to play.”

His talk brought results.

While Cullen supplied the offense in the first half, Britton Johnsen led the team offensively in the second, redeeming himself for a non existent opening game against the EA Sports All-Stars.

A Johnsen steal and dunk at the 15:20 mark capped an 8 0 Ute run and lead to a 43-37 lead. An old-fashioned three point play a minute later increased Utah’s lead to nine.

Minutes after the Leopards cut the lead to seven with 5:10 to go, a base line drive and dunk by Johnsen sealed the win, as Utah now led by 15. Johnsen finished with a team high 19 points and 9 rebounds.

But Majerus credited the turn around with the play on the other side of the ball.

“Defensively we came out with energy in the second half. I don’t know why we didn’t for the entire game,” he said.

Utah forced 21 Leopard turnovers on the game, but London shot 46.7 percent (50 percent in the first half).

Still, the exhibition season was not all that disappointing, said Johnsen.

“There were some positives. At least we didn’t lose to the EA Sports All-Stars this year.

“We’ve gotten better, but we still have a lot of work to do. Playing more is what we need,” Johnsen said.

Utah will get the chance. The Utes start the regular season Nov. 16 at home versus St. Francis (Ill.). The game is the first of three home games in seven days before Utah plays at Alabama.

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