Utes victorious in season finale

The U men’s basketball team may not have lived up to its regular-season expectations, but it got much-needed confidence Saturday, as the Utes defeated the San Diego State Aztecs 66-53 in California.

After a huge loss to BYU-which sealed a third-place finish for the Utes-along with losses to Air Force and Wyoming, the win was huge.

The win was even more impressive, considering the Utes were only the second team in the conference to beat the Aztecs at Cox Arena.

There was no question who had control of the game from the very beginning, as the Ute seniors made most of their final regular season game as members of the team.

Nick Jacobson and Tim Frost were the only two players on the team to score in double figures, but that was all the Utes needed because of the defense on the perimeter.

Freshman point guard Brandon Heath only scored eight points and, more importantly, did not score a single basket from beyond the three-point line.

Wesley Stokes was even worse against the stiff perimeter defense, as he finished with only five points and also didn’t hit a three pointer.

The only viable threat the Aztecs had throughout the game was forward Aerick Sanders, who clearly made his presence felt, even against the Utes’ two towers in the middle.

Sanders finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds, but was limited because of foul trouble.

He had three quick fouls in the first half and the Utes took advantage by taking a 10-point lead at the break.

Without their leader, the Aztecs could only watch as the Ute leaders took over.

Jacobson finished with a solid 16 points, while Frost completely took over with 15 second-half points.

Freshmen Andrew Bogut and Justin Hawkins both finished with nine points, while sophomore Richard Chaney added six.

It was the Utes’ aggressiveness that really allowed them to set the tempo for the whole game.

After a stagnant offensive performance against BYU, the Utes kept attacking the basket, which sent them to the line more than twice as much as the Aztecs.

The Utes had 23 attempts from the charity stripe and hit 17, while the Aztecs went to the line 10 times and only made three shots.

The constant aggressive play, along with the stiff defense, allowed the Utes to take an 18 point lead.

San Diego State did not give up and tried to cut into the lead with consecutive baskets by Sanders.

The Utes held on to win, but the victory didn’t mean anything in terms of the conference race.

However, the confidence going into the tournament that the Utes gained is just as important.

As the third seed, the Utes will play San Diego State in the first round of the conference tournament March 11 in Denver.

The second round of the tournament could be the third BYU-Utah matchup of the season, but this time, it would be on a neutral court.

While the Utes and Cougars battle to get out of the bottom half of the bracket, the top seeded Air Force Falcons will only have to get past Colorado State and either UNLV or New Mexico to get to the finals.

For Utah, an at-large berth will be tough to earn with their lack of quality wins and with five conference losses.

A strong performance at the tournament is of utmost importance.

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