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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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First impressions

By Chris Kamrani

For those of you who expect to see a strictly set-up offense and a defense that just waits for the ball to go through the net, don’t count on watching too many U basketball this season.

Utah used stringent defense and a solid transition attack to run away with the first win of head coach Jim Boylen’s tenure, 86-52.

“We’re the Runnin’ Utes, and we want to run,” said Utah head coach Jim Boylen. “We need to become a team that can win defensively.”

Although the Utes got a career-high 20 points from junior Lawrence Borha and forced the Spartans to shoot 28 percent from the field, the lopsided victory was marred with fouls and turnovers.

Center Luke Nevill had to sit out the majority of the first half, having picked up two quick fouls before two minutes had expired in the game.

Fortunately for Boylen, the other Utah starters picked up the slack, scoring 58 of the 86 points. Newcomer Tyler Kepkay debuted with an impressive statline, recording 12 points, six assists and five rebounds.

But not everything for the Utes was unfamiliar. The team picked up where they left off from behind the three-point line a season ago, netting 7-for-15 from behind the arc against the Spartans.

The Utes struggled with the Spartan press early and forced a bevy of turnovers in the first half, allowing the Spartans to hang around. But Utah overcame the mistakes and an early penalty bonus and pieced together a 14-5 run heading into half. The run was capped off by a transition three-point shot from sophomore Stephen Weigh.

The second half was much like the first, with plenty of turnovers from both sides. The difference was Utah’s ablility to make high-percentage shots. Utah finished the game shooting 57.1 percent from the field and Nevill came back in the second half and quickly scored 12 points.

Boylen was happy to start out the season on a positive note, but said there is still tremendous room for improvement.

“We chart lay-ups, I believe in what Jerry Sloan does, we’re going to play clean and we’re going to play physical,” Boylen said.

Junior Lawrence Borha, dubbed by Boylen as the Utes’ Mario Elie, is typically a defensive specialist, but was the most offensively productive Ute on the night. Despite the best statline of his career as a Ute, Borha was large unsatisfied with the performance.

“I didn’t think we played too well at all,” Borha said. “We need to work on everything and leave room for improvement.”

Kepkay, who recently transferred from the College of Eastern Utah, agreed with Borha.

“There were just too many turnovers,” Kepkay said. “It’s our job to bare down, and just get it and go.”

Although the offense has shown plenty of talent, Boylen emphasizes the message of defense and hustle.

“Defense is the only way to get this program back to what it once was,” Boylen said.

The victory over South Carolina-Upstate saw something that the Utah basketball team didn’t accomplish in a single game last season-holding an opponent to under 55 points.

The Utes will return to action on Tuesday when they face High Point in Seattle, Wash, for the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

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