The best offense is?

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

After an abysmal defensive performance in the Runnin’ Utes’ home-opener against Southern Utah, U head coach Ray Giacoletti and his team went back to the drawing board last Saturday in hopes of curing their ills.

“Our goal in practice right now is to get better defensively,” Giacoletti said before practice on Tuesday. “We need to get better defending ball screens and just take more pride in our defense in general.”

That Utah defense was pretty ineffective against SUU last Friday night. The Thunderbirds shot 73 percent from the field in the first half and finished shooting 65 percent on their way to a 76-73 victory. They also shot 60 percent from the three-point line.

“We just didn’t have the intensity to do what we needed to do,” Utah center Luke Nevill said. “Some of their shots were uncontested and we definitely need to work on that.”

Specifically, the Utes had trouble defending against ball and extending screens around the perimeter, which gave the T-Birds a number of open shots, including the game-winner from SUU shooting guard Steve Barnes.

Barnes received a ball screen at the top of the key and drove around the left side with 36.8 seconds in the game. Two Utah defenders switched men, which left a much larger Ute (Daniel Deane) covering the nimble Barnes. Everyone now knows the result.

“Yeah, we’ve been working on ball screens a lot the last few days,” Utah forward Shaun Green said. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to guard them on the wings and the point. I think we’ve got it pretty well figured out now, though.”

Green’s teammate Johnnie Bryant agrees, but adds that the team has also struggled with closing out against shooters.

“We came back on Saturday morning and started working on our defense, but defense will always be our main focus,” Bryant said. “We gave up too many easy buckets against SUU because we had a few sloppy closeouts.”

It would be fairly easy for everyone to overanalyze the loss to the Thunderbirds, since it is the only game the Utes have played this season, but coach Giacoletti still remains optimistic about his young and talented team.

“We’re a lot better than we were last week,” Giacoletti said. “I think everyone on the team has a good understanding of what we want to do now. We may have to tweak a few things here and there, but that’s the same with any team. There’s always something you can work on.”

The Utes have this entire week to work on their defensive ailments, with their only game of the week coming on Saturday when they play their first road game of the season against the Santa Clara Broncos.

Lennie Mahler

Guard Ricky Johns attempts a shot over SUU’s Brad Kanis in the Utes’ Nov. 11 loss at the Huntsman Center.