Men’s Hoops: Utes runnin’ no more

By and

The Runnin’ Utes might not have accomplished all that they had hoped to do in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational, but the game stood as a positive microcosm of sorts to Utah’s entire season.

In the end, the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes ousted the Utes from the tournament by a final score of 69-60, but the Utes took small victories from 2007-2008 body of work that came to an end last night.

“I wanted this year to be a great year,” Utah head coach Jim Boylen said. “We wanted to win a few more games, but we wanted to also change the culture. We did change the culture.”

One of the metamorphoses Boylen brought to Utah was exemplified in the second half of Monday night’s loss.

From Shaun Green’s two fouls in the first six minutes, to Tulsa’s 17-for-17 effort from the free throw line in the opening frame, almost everything that could go wrong for Utah in the first half, did. Not even a 4-for-6 effort from the 3-point line by Johnnie Bryant could prevent Utah from falling into an 35-20 hole at half time.

In the 2006-2007 season, that kind of start was almost certainly guaranteed to end in a 20-point blowout. But like so many times this season, Utah stayed aggressive and never stopped competing.

“We were very calm at halftime,” Boylen said. “We knew they had made 17-of-17 free throws. We knew we had guys in foul trouble. We said we wanted to make a run and we did.”

After Tulsa extended their lead to 17 on its first possession of the second half, Utah went on a 9-2 run in less than two minutes to cut Tulsa’s lead to 10. The Utes also held Tulsa without a field goal for 4:48 and capitalized on that defense effort on a Luke Nevill jumper with 14:11 remaining to cut the home team’s lead to seven. From then on it was a battle that Utah fought with a grittiness that wasn’t present when Boylen joined the team a year ago.

“I thought we ran the ball better and we got stops (in the second half),” Boylen said. The Utes trimmed Tulsa’s lead to five, three times, but would get no closer. After playing solid defense, the Utes had the chance to cut the lead to five a fourth time, but Calvin Walls pulled down one of Tulsa’s 11 offensive rebounds at the 6:36 mark to turn a seven-point lead into nine.

“The offensive rebounds were huge,” Boylen said.

Bryant and Luka Drca both hit 3-pointers with less than three minutes in the game to cut Tulsa’s lead to five twice, but were answered by a Ray Reese 3 the first time and a Ben Uzoh layup the second to keep a Utah win out of reach.

Uzoh finished with 22 points, including an 11-for-14 performance from the line, to lead the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa shot just 38.3 percent from the field, but managed to shoot 80 percent from the foul line on 36 attempts.

Bryant did his best to extend his first and only postseason trip with 19 points, but Luke Nevill’s 12 points and nine rebounds were about the only other statistical bright spot for the Utes.


The Utes lost by double digits 10 times last season, including four losses of 20 points or more. This year Utah’s 15-point loss to Santa Clara was their most lopsided defeat and they only lost two others by double digits. The nine point loss to Tulsa was their fourth worst of the season.

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Associated Press

Tulsa’s Jerome Jordan scores over two Utah defenders in his team’s 69-60 victory.