Runnin? Utes overcome press to get last minute win

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

The Runnin’ Utes spent all week in practice preparing to face a tough New Mexico press8212;and the focus paid off for Utah as it overcame the press en-route to a 69-68 win over the Lobos.

After two close overtime games with New Mexico, the last being Utah’s 82-80 upset in last year’s Mountain West Conference tournament, the Utes’ preparation stemmed from past experiences.

“We were worried about their press, and their pressure bothered us down there last year, so I watched both games from last year just to make sure I had a feel for exactly what they were doing pressure-wise,” head coach Jim Boylen said. “And we were ready for it and I thought we handled it pretty well.”

Although breaking a press is usually the responsibility of the guards, center Luke Nevill played a crucial role in Utah’s being able to get the ball down to court against the Lobos.

Focusing on Nevill’s role in breaking the press was another aspect of the game the Utes worked on in practice in preparation for the game.

“A lot of times my guy would sag off and I was a great outlet for the guys on the baseline,” Nevill said. “They were pressuring the guards a lot so we had to make other alterations to get the ball in, so sometimes I would take it up because my guy wasn’t guarding me.”

The Utes’ ball-handling ability and having a number of different players who can bring the ball up the court was another key to breaking the Lobos press.

“We’ve got multiple ball handlers, if Luka’s (Drca) not bringing it up, I can bring it up, TK (Tyler Kepkay), even Luke can bring it up sometimes, so it’s not that hard to beat the press,” Carlon Brown said. “We just have to make sure we are in our spots and make sure once we get it across half court we get back in our offense.”

Despite facing a full-court press the entire game, the Utes were able to keep their turnovers down against New Mexico.

The team had only 11 turnovers, which is well below their season average of 14 per game. Turnovers have been a focus for the team all season and Boylen was pleased with the low number.

“I’ve been harping on turnovers for this team and our goal on the board in there was 12,” Boylen said. “Eleven turnovers is good for us, we got four more shots, shot eight more free throws so we had more possessions. Eleven was good for us so if we can keep it there I think we’re going to have some success.”

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Tyler Cobb

Luka Drca looks to pass out of the pressure applied by Daniel Faris of New Mexico on Saturday. Drca finished the game with 11 points.