Men’s Hoops: Utes hope to break even against Vegas

Runnin’ Utes head coach Jim Boylen didn’t get much time to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. Even the big game took a backseat to quality time Boylen wanted to spend with his two daughters, Layla and Ashlen. The parts of the game Boylen did see, he appreciated, particularly because of his love for defense.

But it was a statement Tom Coughlin, the coach of the World Champion New York Giants, made earlier in the week that Boylen loved most about the Super Bowl.

“Excuses are for losers,” Coughlin said.

Boylen couldn’t agree more.

Every team in the MWC, but Utah, seems to have that one player who is a near lock for a 20-point game every night. Utah’s opponent tonight is no exception. UNLV guard Wink Adams — who averages 18.4 points a game — is that guy for the Rebels.

Despite not having a player who can completely take over a game on his own, Boylen isn’t using that as an excuse for the team’s 3-4 record in the MWC.

“I don’t mind a team with some balance,” Boylen said. “I mean, we’ve got seven different leading scorers in seven of our wins…That’s a tough team to prepare for.”

UNLV is also a tough team to prepare for. The Rebels (17-4, 6-1 MWC) lost much of the talent that took them to the Sweet 16 last season, but with Lon Kruger at the helm, UNLV succeeds in playing as a team.

“I’ve known Lon Kruger for a long time,” Boylen said. “I think he’s a terrific coach, and his guys, again, have assumed their roles, taken pride in their work and done a great job.”

The thing UNLV thrives on most is creating turnovers and then scoring off those turnovers in transition. With Utah’s last home game against Wyoming as evidence, transition defense isn’t exactly Utah’s strong suit yet.

“We’ve got to get our butt back in transition,” Boylen said. “We have to execute in our half-court offense and not turn it over, and we have to continue to improve our rebounding (of the) basketball.”

The Utes are also in need of a strong showing at home, and a win against UNLV would be huge for a number of different reasons.

Utah sits at 1-4 against the top five teams in the conference this year. The Utes are also 0-5 against UNLV in the teams’ last five meetings. In fact, Utah’s star junior trio of Shaun Green, Luke Nevill and Lawrence Borha has never beaten UNLV. Utah’s record in conference play hasn’t been at 0.500 or better this late in the season for three years. With a win tonight, Utah can change all that.

“This game (tonight) is an opportunity to push through one of the walls that this team needs to push through,” Boylen said. “I don’t think we’ve played consistent good basketball at home — I don’t. This is an opportunity to do that against a good team.”

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Jarad Reddekopp

Facing UNLV tonight, Jim Boylen hopes to break the Utes five-game losing streak against the Rebels.