Runnin’ Utes show inprovement in win

Another Division-II team, another opponent held to a sub-30 percent shooting percentage, another visiting team’s score doubled up, another Block U flashing red and the Runnin’ Utes are through the appetizer portion of their 2007-2008 platter.

Last Thursday it was Montana Tech that the Utes doubled up by the score of 83-40. Last night it was Northwest Nazarene that was thumped by the Utes, 88-43.

“Our motto in there is get better every day, in a win and in a loss,” Boylen said. “We gotta get more intense every day. We’ve got to care for each other more every day. I think we took a step in the right direction today.”

Although it’s always hard to gauge a team’s play when the disparity is of the kind that existed between Utah and it’s exhibition opponents, the Utes’ progress is beginning to be noticeable.

Specifically, the Utes played a more physical brand of defense than they did last week against Montana State.

“I thought we improved on our toughness,” Boylen said. “I thought we hit some people today. I thought we dove on the floor today. I talked to my team about winning the games inside the game.”

After the game, the first-year head coach sung the praises of Lawrence Bohra and Shaun Green.

Bohra had the assignment of guarding the Crusaders’ best player, Justin Parnell. You could take Boylen’s word for it that the junior guard did his job, but an even better indicator exists on paper.

Bohra was largely responsible for shutting Parnell down with an 0-for-5 shooting night, despite leading the Crusaders with 30 minutes of playing time.

In the front court, Green was just as effective for the Runnin’ Utes.

In fact, Boylen said after the game that he couldn’t remember a single play of Green’s on offense. Still, Boylen said with pope-like conviction that Green played a great game because of the way he exerted himself on defense.

“I want to start off by giving Shaun Green and Lawrence Bohra credit,” Boylen said. “I’ve asked Lawrence to become a defensive-minded player. I’ve asked them to set the tone. (Bohra) guarded their best player tonight. He didn’t score tonight…that’s what I’m trying to establish here.”

The Utes still had their fair share of mental lapses — the ones Boylen warns will come up to bite his team in close games if it is unable to rub them out. One of the ways Utah will be able to reduce its mistakes is if it continues to see the type of improvement juco transfer Tyler Kepkay showed from his guard position.

Kepkay admitted that his head has basically been spinning since he got to Utah. With the help of Boylen’s boot in his behind and the recommendation to let the game come to him, basketball seemed to slow down for Kepkay against Northwest Nazarene and the Utes benefited from his nine-point, five-assist output.

“I’m just trying to play and do whatever it is that helps the team win,” Kepkay said. “I’m just trying to be as pure a point guard as I can.”

Although there are many other players that had solid games — including Luke Nevill, who scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and claimed 8 rebounds — Kim Tillie was the other player of note Tuesday night.

With the way the 6-foot-9 sophomore was diving after loose balls, Tillie’s jersey likely saw the hardwood as much as the bottom of his oversized shoes did.

“It gets the crowd into it,” U forward Stephen Weigh said. “(Those situations) can really, really help us out.”

From here, the Utes go on to start the regular season by hosting USC Upstate on Friday. Utah will then take part in the NIT Season Tipoff in Seattle, Wash.

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Lennie Mahler

The Utes defense lead by Shaun Green shut down the Northwest Nazarene offence holding them to 43 total points.