Finding a cure

By By Cody Brunner and By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Following yet another loss at the hands of Wyoming on Wednesday, the U men’s basketball team hopes to bounce back with a win against New Mexico tomorrow.

Despite playing without star center and offensive focal point Luke Nevill, the Runnin’ Utes had no trouble scoring points against the Cowboys. Utah shot a blazing 57.1 percent from the field.

“Everything in our offense is kind of centered around him, but I thought our effort was as good as it has been this entire year,” Utah coach Ray Giacoletti said. “We found a couple of new ways to get to the basket.”

But all of the offensive firepower in the world couldn’t fix the Utes’ defensive woes. Wyoming’s talented backcourt tandem of Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones pretty well had its way with the Utes. The pair combined a score of 47 points. Ewing led the team with 28 points-26 of which came in the second half.

“Brandon (Ewing) is such a rhythm player,” Giacoletti said. “We gave him a couple uncontested shots early and he just got on a roll. Once he gets started, its tough to stop him.”

The Utes were still in the game late, but their familiar ball control woes showed up once again down the stretch and the result was an 86-78 loss.

“We bailed them out with a lot of bad passes in the second half,” Giacoletti said. “You can’t do those kinds of things down the stretch if you want to win basketball games.”

Junior guard Johnnie Bryant picked up the offensive slack in Nevill’s stead, scoring 26 points in the losing effort.

The loss was the Runnin’ Utes’ third consecutive, with previous defeats coming at the hands of UNLV and Air Force. They will try to get back on track tomorrow against New Mexico, which has also been struggling lately.

After starting off the season with impressive wins against Colorado and Kansas State, the Lobos have taken a turn for the worst.

New Mexico dropped six of its first seven conference games and hasn’t had much more luck recently. The team’s latest faux pas came at the hands of San Diego State on Tuesday.

The Lobos looked like they were in control of the game late in the first half with a 33-24 lead. But rebounding and perimeter defense woes allowed the Aztecs to score the next nine points and tie the game at halftime.

The second half saw San Diego State take a late lead, but the Lobos kept fighting. Junior guard Tony Danridge led his team back from a five-point deficit and tied the game at 70 with only 30 seconds left. After a missed free-throw attempt by the Aztecs, the Lobos had a chance to win it in regulation. But a Chad Toppert jump shot couldn’t find its mark and the game was sent to overtime.

New Mexico couldn’t keep up with Aztec guard Brandon Heath in the extra period and lost, 81-74. Danridge led his team in the losing effort, scoring a career-high 24 points.

“Danridge has really come on strong in conference play,” Giacoletti said. “He’s a tough match-up for most teams and he will present some problems.”

The Lobos were without leading scorer and All-American candidate J.R. Giddens against the Aztecs. The junior had been suspended by head coach Ritchie McKay for undisclosed reasons and it is undetermined whether or not he will play against the Utes.

Likewise, it is also difficult to know whether Utah center Luke Nevill will play tomorrow. The Aussie suffered a right hip pointer in practice on Monday and has been out ever since. He is listed as day-to-day.

Regardless of whether the big man plays or not, the Utes will try to snap their three-game losing streak tomorrow when they play host to New Mexico.

“You’ve got to be playing you’re best basketball this time of year,” Giacoletti said. “Gaining momentum heading into the conference tournament is huge for your confidence.”

Kim Peterson

Shaun Green struggles to find a shot opportunity underneath the basket on Feb. 17 during the Utes’ loss to UNLV. The Utes hope to find a win late in the season against New Mexico Saturday at the Huntsman Center.