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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Utes hope to keep momentum going against Weber State

By Cody Brunner

It starts at the top-the top of the key anyway. At least, that’s the way it went for the Runnin’ Utes last night as point guard Johnnie Bryant led the best defensive effort to date, creating three of 21 Wildcat turnovers and many headaches for Weber State coach Randy Rahe.

Bryant and the rest of the stalwart Utah defense held the Wildcats to a meager 41 percent shooting and only allowed 27 points in the first half on the way to a 67-55 victory.

“Our defensive pressure always starts with Johnnie at the top, because he’s going to be on the ball most of the time,” U forward Shaun Green said. “He really stepped up his defense and rattled their point guards the whole game.”

Luke Nevill led the Ute offense, nearly going perfect from the field (11-12) on his way to a season-high 24 points. The 7-foot-1 Aussie was the focus of the Wildcat defense the entire night, but his size made him nearly impossible to stop against a much smaller Weber State team.

“They (Weber State) didn’t have much height, so we just tried to look inside and get me some touches,” Nevill said. “A couple of times they doubled me and I was able to get a couple of guys some outside looks, so it worked out.”

Those inside-out looks got the Utes a number of open shots early in the game, shooting an impressive 63.6 percent from the three-point line in the first half.

The game was somewhat of a homecoming for Wildcat coach Randy Rahe, who coached under the tutelage of U coach Ray Giacoletti for the past two seasons before being hired at Weber State.

“Randy has got his team playing very aggressive, very free,” Giacoletti said. “I think they’re going to get much better as they go along and he is doing a great job with them.”

The win against the Wildcats was the second straight for coach Giacoletti’s young team after opening the season with three consecutive losses. Despite winning the game, Giacoletti is concerned with the Utes’ depth.

“We’ve got to get some help from the bench,” Giacoletti said. “We’ve got to get people to come in and play some roles.”

Shaun Green showed yet again why he leads the conference in shooting percentage, netting four of seven shots to finish the game with 12 points. The sophomore forward also led the team with seven rebounds and four assists in the winning effort.

“Shaun is a great player,” Nevill said. “He can score on the outside and he can score on the inside and that makes him pretty difficult to defend. If they (opposing teams) put smaller guys on him, he can post up. If they put bigger guys on him, he can shoot the three, so he’s a very versatile player.”

Despite the significant size advantage, the Wildcats were able to out-rebound the Utes (28-24) and snagged six offensive boards in the first half.

“We didn’t come out nearly as energetic as we should have and gave up a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half, but I still thinking we’re playing better ball than before so we’re happy with that.”

The win against the Wildcats was the Utes second consecutive victory, with the first coming over Rice University. Utah faces a formidable challenge in their next opponent as Washington State comes to town on Dec. 2. The Cougars have opened up their season undefeated with seven consecutive wins. Most recently, they used a diverse attack to defeat Portland University 62-50.

“I think we’re getting much better defensively, but our next opportunity (against Washington State) is going to tell us exactly where we’re at.”

Lennie Mahler

Johnnie Bryant draws the foul while going for a lay-up in Tuesday night’s 67-55 win over Weber State.

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