Utah riding high with Nevill

By By Marco Villano

By Marco Villano

The Runnin’ Utes have been saying something all winter break that most students probably haven’t heard8212;they’ve been feeding off of the hype of the football team.

Over the three-week break, the Utes have gone 6-2, beating the likes of Gonzaga and Louisiana State in solid fashion. In conference play, they are 1-1, with their win coming at home against Wyoming, 91-67, and their most recent loss to San Diego State, 72-63.

“We’ve communicated very well in those wins and we’ve ran very well,” said Utah head coach Jim Boylen. “Also I think we’ve picked each other up, we’ve been willing passers and willing sharers of the ball.”

The star of the team has been center Luke Nevill, who has earned Mountain West Conference Player of the Week twice in consecutive weeks. During the two games for which he won his last award (Dec. 31 and Jan. 3), he averaged 22 points, 10.5 rebounds and four blocks. His best showing was against Wyoming, in which he scored a career-high 29 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.

“We’ve been bonding a little better on the floor, we’re talking more and we’re reading situations a little bit better,” Nevill said. “We kind of have a better understanding of which guy can do what on the court and which each guy’s responsibility is and we’re playing into our roles.”

The Utes have held their opponents to 39 percent shooting from the field this season and are outrebounding them by an average of 35-30 per game.

Offensively, the Utes went two straight games of shooting over 60 percent from the field before a poor showing against San Diego State at 45 percent. Five players are averaging more than 10 points per game, with Nevill leading the way at 18. Even with these stats, Boylen thinks that his team needs to do a better job on the offensive end.

“I’m disappointed offensively in us,” Boylen said. “Down in San Diego State, I didn’t think we played with enough trust, didn’t share it, didn’t move it. We’re not a team that can do it on our own. We got to trust each other, share it and move it.”

Utah is coming off a loss that snapped a four-game winning streak and facing Air Force, which is 0-2 in conference play. The Utes have the advantage in size, but the Falcons arguably run their offense better than any team in the conference.

“They’re a small team so they’re a quick team,” Nevill said. “They run their offense to a T. They’ve run that offense for like 18 to 20 years so they know what they’re doing and they know how to run it.”

The Utes and Falcons met twice last season, with the Utes winning both contests. In the game at Air Force, the Utes won 67-59, giving them a 17-9 advantage all-time in Colorado Springs.

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