Second-half rally leads to victory

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

The Runnin’ Utes kept their winning streak intact with a win Friday against Missouri State, 71-58.

The game was close going into halftime, with the Utes down 27-26. Head coach Jim Boylen used his locker-room magic to fire up the team, which came ready to play in the second half.

“I think we’ve made good adjustments at halftime and I think we’ve come out focused out of the locker room,” Boylen said. “(They) played with more effort in the second half and our conditioning, our depth and our toughness, I think all three of those things have helped us.”

Utah’s biggest run came despite the absence of senior center Luke Nevill, who sat out for eight minutes in the second half after being assessed a technical foul. At that point, Missouri was leading 33-31 with 17 minutes 48 seconds left in the game. The Utes went on a 15-5 run before Nevill returned to the floor. The game was in Utah’s hands.

“It is always tough to play on the road,” Nevill said. “You are in a hostile environment and calls are not always going to go the way you want. I did get frustrated but just had to play through it.”

The Utes showed their depth yet again with four Utah players scoring in double figures against the Bears. Nevill and guards Carlon Brown and Tyler Kepkay led the way with 13 points apiece, which were new season highs for Brown and Kepkay. Guard Lawrence Borha finished right behind them with 10, but also dished out six assists. The Utes are 3-1 this season when three or more players score in double figures.

“The thing that’s happened with who stepped up is we’ve had guys make plays when they needed to make them,” Boylen said. “We’ve had different guys step up and different guys make plays when we needed it and that’s what a good team does.”

Missouri never came within eight points of the Utes after their big run. The Utes went to the new JQH Arena ready to do what Boylen asked them to do all season8212;play defense.

They held the Bears to a 34 field goal percentage and allowed only two players to score in double figures. Spencer Laurie put 18 points on the board against the Utes and Chris Cook added 11.

The Utes had a difficult time crashing the boards in the first half, allowing the Bears to outrebound them 16-13. Of those 16 rebounds, seven were offensive. Boylen has been brash about winning the rebounding game this season, a stat which the Utes ultimately won 32-28. Forward Kim Tillie pulled down five rebounds in the second half and finished with seven for the game.

“We just had to come out and key on blocking guys out,” Brown said. “We talked about that at halftime. We had to crash the boards in the second half. When all five guys are getting in and rebounding, we should win the rebound battle in most of our games.”

This is the fourth straight game in which the Utes have defeated their opponent with a double-digit margin.

The Utes return to the Huntsman Center on Wednesday to play Oregon at 7 p.m. This game will be the first of four non-conference games that Utah will host in December and January, which has been dubbed the Fantastic Four. California (Dec. 10), Gonzaga (Dec. 31) and Louisiana (Jan. 6) round out Utah’s specially billed schedule.

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