At a loss

By By Cody Brunner and By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

There are few positives a team can take after a beatdown like the U men’s basketball team suffered last Saturday night in the Huntsman Center. The Runnin’ Utes didn’t shoot, pass or defend the ball particularly well against UNLV and the result was a 70-57 loss. The defeat marked the second in four days, having already lost to Air Force earlier in the week.

“The way we’ve been playing the last two games, it seems like we’ve just given up,” Utah forward Shaun Green said. “But I know everybody in this locker room; they don’t want to give up.”

The first meeting between the two teams was one of the more climactic games this season, heading into double-overtime before the Rebels finally ended it with a game-winning layup. The latest match-up was the exact antithesis, with UNLV (22-6, 9-4 MWC) dominating the majority of the game.

After jumping out to a 19-12 lead early in the game, the Utes (9-16, 4-8 MWC) went cold from the field and were unable to score for eight-and-a-half minutes. UNLV seized the opportunity on the other end of the court, going on an 18-0 run behind a barrage of three-point conversions.

“They got buckets in transition, they got a couple of offensive rebounds, knocked down a couple of open looks,” Utah guard Johnnie Bryant said. “And then, just like it has been all year, once things start going wrong, everything just compounds.”

The Utes were able to close the gap to 30-25 thanks to a pair of Bryant three-pointers, but a Kevin Kruger three at the buzzer sent the Rebels into the break with an eight-point edge.

Utah came out of the gates hot again in the second half, narrowing the margin to 33-30 after Ricky Johns converted a three-point play. But that same scoring drought struck again and the Rebels went on an uncontested 16-0 run to take off with the victory.

“We just can’t find a way to get defensive stops when teams make their runs,” Green said. “I mean, this is college basketball. Everybody is gonna make a run. We just have to find a way to stop it before it gets out of control.”

It got out of control on Saturday. Utah couldn’t find an answer for the sharpshooting Rebels (64.7 percent from behind the three-point line) and the result was the worst home defeat in conference play since falling to Wyoming by the same score on Feb. 2, 1992.

UNLV point guard Wink Adams led the Rebels to victory with a game-high 17 points. Standing at merely 6 feet tall, Adams also led both teams in rebounds with 10. Senior guard Kevin Kruger pitched in 11 points, four rebounds and four assists in the winning effort.

Meanwhile, Utah couldn’t find anything that resembled an offensive rhythm. Every time it looked like the home team was going to make a comeback, the Utes would go on a cold shooting streak or turn the ball over. In between scoring droughts, Luke Nevill led the team from his center position, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Bryant pitched 14 points of his own, but most of them were scored when the game was already lopsided.

Following the game, Nevill said the Utah players were going to hold a players-only meeting in hopes of solving some of their problems in time for the conference tournament next month.

“We have some huge problems we need to fix,” Nevill said. “We’re a good team and we’re not this bad on defense. We just need to work harder.”

The Utes will have a chance to get back into the middle of the conference pack tomorrow when they travel to Laramie to take on Wyoming.