Turnovers plague Runnin’ Utes

Runnin’ Utes (2-1) head coach Jim Boylen has been looking for Luke Nevill to step up and take some ownership of his team. Boylen can point to the center on Utah’s Wednesday-night opponent for a pretty good example of how that is done.

Jon Brockman scored 31 points and pulled down 18 rebounds as the Washington Huskies squeaked passed the Utes 83-77 to advance to semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament season tipoff.

Although the loss eliminated the Utes from the preseason tournament and cleared up the Utes’ game schedule over the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s likely Boylen won’t be giving his team too much vacation time. Instead, the Utes will likely use the newfound time off figuring out how to limit turnovers and mitigate mental mistakes.

Utah finished the game with 18 turnovers, including two crucial mistakes down the stretch that ultimately cost the Utes the chance to go onto New York for a meeting with No. 15 Texas A&M.

With the Utes holding the ball and a 72-70 advantage with just over three minutes to play, the mental mistakes which were so prevalent last year haunted the Utes again. Johnny Bryant turned the ball over to give Washington a chance to tie. The Utes managed to clamp down on defense and prevented the Huskies from drawing even. Luka Drca then immediately gave the ball back to the Huskies and Justin Holiday’s ensuing jump shot pulled them even.

Bryant managed to give the Utes a 75-72 lead on a 3-point shot with 2:29 left to play, but the Utes would go the next two minutes without scoring a point. Washington guard Justin Dentmon, however, had no trouble. Dentmon scored two of his 16 points on a jumpshot with 1:32 to go to give Washinton the lead for good. Later his two free throws would be all the Huskies would need to seal the deal and advance on their home court.

The Utes might have learned a lot about themselves in the loss, including the fine line between playing physical on defense, and playing out of control.

The Utes’ physicality limited the Huskies to a shooting 43.3 percent from the field. It also sent Washington to the line 37 times, where the Huskies managed to hit 27 of those attempts. Although the physical play is exactly what Boylen has wanted to see out of his team from day one, the Utes also committed a series of silly fouls which sent Kim Tillie to the bench for good with 7:30 left to play. Shortly after, Nevill also picked up his fifth foul and was forced to spent the rest of the game watching from the sidelines.

On a positive note, the Utes showed a brand of toughness which was rarely seen last season, particularly to start the second half. With the Utes trailing 44-35 at the break and 51-41 in the first part of the second half, Utah went on a 10-0 run behind solid defense and a reborn 3-point touch to tie the game midway through the period.

Game Notes: The Utes shot better than 50 percent for the third time in as many tries. Over that same period, the Utes have not allowed an opponent to shoot better than 48 percent. Stephen Weigh led the Utes with 21 points, but only scored two of his points in the last 10 minutes of the game.

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