Utes rally past Rams

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

It took the entire first half and a chorus of boos from the home crowd, but the Runnin’ Utes finally found their rhythm last night against Colorado State.

Lawrence Borha and Daniel Deane ignited the Utes’ defense in the second half, forcing turnover after turnover to lead the home team back from a 10-point deficit and squeak by the Rams, 82-77.

“We got a lot of help off the bench tonight,” Utah forward Shaun Green said. “They came in and gave us a positive boost and from there, it was all about team effort.”

The Utes struggled in nearly every aspect of the game in the first half, converting on merely 37.5 percent of their shots and giving away 12 turnovers.

But the second half was a different story. What was a paltry attempt at defense turned into a turnover-producing machine, forcing a plethora of Ram errors, which led to easy buckets on the other end.

“We came alive out there in the second half,” U coach Ray Giacoletti said. “A couple of guys came in and gave us some much needed energy.”

Colorado State big men Josh Smith and Stuart Creason worked the Utes throughout, combining for 23 points. The seven-foot duo also contained Utah’s Luke Nevill in the first half, holding him eight points on 2-for-8 shooting.

Despite all of their first half shortcomings, the Utes merely trailed by a score of 35-28 at halftime.

“The assistant coaches harped on us at halftime,” Utah guard Johnnie Bryant said. “They told us that we only have six-and-a-half games left and that we weren’t playing Utah basketball.”

The Utes turned their play around in the second half, committing only three turnovers and completely dominating their opposition while shooting 67.9 percent from the field.

In spite of its solid play, Utah still kept the Rams in the game with an abundance of fouls.

Colorado State only trailed by one point with just over two-and-a-half minutes to go, but the Utes went back inside to their moneymaker, Luke Nevill, who scored on three consecutive possessions.

Nevill finished the game with a team-high 18 points, 10 of which came in the last five minutes of play.

“We just had players step up and make plays with time running short,” Giacoletti said. “You can’t put a price on the energy that we had in the second half.”

Much of that energy came from the bench, but the crafty veterans gave a spark as well. Johnnie Bryant had a solid all around game for the Utes, scoring 17 points and recording seven assists in the winning effort.

The sole senior on the team, Ricky Johns, also came through down the stretch, breaking away from the CSU defense with time running short to hit the game-winning layup.

“We’ve been in so many of these close games now,” Green said. “We’re used to the pressure. When it comes down to it, you’ve just got to make the right plays and the right reads.”

The win catapults the Runnin’ Utes into a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference, equaling both CSU and Wyoming.

Lennie Mahler

Luca Drca lays two points in the basket over Colorado State’s Tyler Smith on Tuesday as the Utes pulled ahead in the second half to win 82-77.