Utes take down Lobos in final seconds

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

For the second straight game, the Runnin’ Utes found themselves in a battle with one of the Mountain West Conference’s best8212;and in the end it was the same story, but a different hero.

Utah guard Lawrence Borha saved the day for the Utes, shooting the game-winner as part of a game-high 15 points in their 69-68 win over New Mexico on Saturday.

Coming off what head coach Jim Boylen called, “the biggest win of my coaching career,” against BYU on Wednesday, Utah held strong down the stretch and took the lead for good when Borha hit a 15-foot floater over the backboard, which he later called “lucky.”

“I didn’t think I was going to take (that shot),” Borha said. “I thought Shaun (Green) had a great shot in the corner, he passed it to me and we knew the time was running out, we had to get shots up on the goal, so I just took the shot.”

With the Utes down 68-67 and time running out, Green swung a pass to Borha on the wing. The result of the broken play, which was designed to go to Tyler Kepkay, was a floater from behind the backboard by Borha, which dropped with 11 seconds left.

Utah fought back from being down by six with two minutes to go before nabbing the lead. The Utes then applied some of their best pressure defense of the game to stop New Mexico, which had the ball on its end with seven seconds on the game clock. Borha nearly stripped Roman Martinez of the ball, and after a few precious seconds wore off the clock, the ball ultimately ended up in the hands of Lobo Chad Toppert, who took a deep three that came up short.

“(New Mexico) still got a shot up and thank God it was short,” Boylen said. “We just talked about communicating, switching if we had to and making them make a shot over us.”

The Utes had a slow start as the first 14 minutes of the game were dominated by New Mexico. Boylen pulled freshman guard Jordan Cyphers off the bench to replace Carlon Brown, who was struggling from the field with two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half. Cyphers sparked the Utah offense by converting a layup plus the foul and a 3-pointer in consecutive possessions.

Cyphers finished the first half with eight points and was the catalyst to Utah’s 21-6 run in the final six minutes of the half.

“I want to credit Jordan Cyphers on being ready to play,” Boylen said. “His eight points was as big as it gets.”
Glancing at the stat sheet, the disparity in field goal percentages between the two teams would be a standout. The Utes allowed New Mexico to shoot 54 percent from the field8212;61 percent from the 3-point line, and also outscoring the Utes 22-18 in the paint. Utah shot a paltry 40 percent from the field on its home floor.

The Utes had 18 second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds. They also made nine more free throws than the Lobos.

“For (New Mexico) to shoot 54 percent and not win in here is a credit to our team,” Boylen said. “The free throw game was the big difference. Second chance points are huge8212;that’s been a focus of our team, to rebound the ball better.”

Luke Nevill had a tough game on the block, being double- and triple-teamed by the Lobos, who held him scoreless for the first eight minutes of the game. He finished the game with 11 points, well below his 18 point average, but his 7-foot-2 frame forced New Mexico into taking shots from the perimeter. Offensively, he was able to use the double team to find an open teammate. Utah made 10-of-21 shots from 3-point range as a result, and stayed undefeated at home in conference play.

[email protected]

Lennie Mahler

The Utah bench and fans celebrate after New Mexico missed their last shot to give the Utes a 69-68 win Saturday afternoon. The win keeps Utah tied for first place in the Mountain West Conference.