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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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Runnin’ Utes edge closer to even par

By Cody Brunner

The U men’s basketball team crept one game closer to .500 on Wednesday with a victory over Weber State, but will have to bring its best effort of the season tomorrow if it wants to break even against Washington State.

After suffering through 10 consecutive losing seasons, the Cougars have jumped out to a 7-0 record for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Washington State can thank its success to first-year head coach Tony Bennett, who has installed a tough defensive regime. That defense has held opponents to 56.9 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting this season.

“They play the Pacific defense, which is a really difficult deal to play against,” said U coach Ray Giacoletti. “We can’t get stagnant and just shoot jump shots or else we’re in trouble. We have to beat it with penetration and getting the ball inside.”

The Utes had absolutely no trouble getting the ball inside to big man Luke Nevill against Weber State. The 7-foot-1 Australian punished the much smaller Wildcats to the tune of 24 points on 11-for-12 shooting.

With no player on the Washington State roster taller than 6-foot-10, the Utes will surely try to exploit their size advantage once again and get the ball inside to Nevill.

“Luke is always going to be our go-to guy,” Giacoletti said. “We’re expecting them to double him the whole game, but that’s just going to open up some shots for our other guys.”

On the other end of the court, the Utes have their work cut out for them in stopping one of the more eclectic offenses in the Pac-10.

Derrik Low leads the Cougars in scoring from the top of the key with 15.6 points per game. “Low has started since he was a freshman,” Giacoletti said. “He’s a really great athlete and is kind of their heartbeat. He uses screens really well and just makes the team go.”

The 6-foot-2 junior guard may be the pulse of the team, but is in no way the only threat. Seven different Washington State players are averaging more than six points this season for coach Bennett.

Ivory Clark, a 6-foot-6 small forward, has been causing problems for the opposition this entire season. The senior’s scrappy play has led him to a team-high 6.6 rebounds in addition to 11.6 points per game.

In the backcourt, shooting guard Kyle Weaver poses a difficult dilemma as he is 6-foot-6–bigger than most of his positional opponents. Weaver has been third on the team in scoring this season, stroking 9.9 points per game.

Meanwhile, the Utes have had a defensive mean streak for the past two games, forcing a total of 36 turnovers in their two wins.

“Our biggest concern right now is to just sustain our defensive energy,” said U forward Shaun Green. “Everything revolves around our defense. If we play hard on the defensive end, we’re going to get some good looks on offense.”

The Utes hope to maintain their defensive energy tomorrow night against the Cougars, who gave them a 69-42 beat down last year in Seattle.

“This is a great opportunity for our team,” Giacoletti said. “We have a little confidence after those two wins and to have a Pac-10 team, which is probably the best team we play this year, this is how you get better.”

Lennie Mahler

Luke Nevill scores two of his game-high 24 points to help the Utes beat Weber State on Wednesday at the Hunstman Center. The Utes will look to extend their winning streak against Washington State on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.

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