Second-half improvements give Utes win

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

It looked as though the Runnin’ Utes’ defense had slept in for its early-afternoon start against the Air Force Falcons.

The men’s basketball team allowed the Falcons to shoot 56 percent from the field in the first half, giving the cadets a one-point lead at the break.

“We just forgot to play there for a minute,” said head coach Jim Boylen of his team’s first-half play. “We made some adjustments at halftime and we were a little more aggressive defensively to start the (second) half.”

A revived Utah defense woke up in the second half and held Air Force to 46 percent shooting the rest of the way to stay atop the Mountain West Conference.

“We needed to make some adjustments, like make them shoot twos instead of 3s and just start rebounding and running more and that’s what we did, and it worked for us,” Shaun Green said.

This isn’t the first game in which the Utes have struggled to play tough defense in the first half. In four of the past six games, a lack of defensive toughness has left Utah down at halftime.

“In some games we’ve guarded the way I’ve asked us to guard, but we’ve been a little too respectful,” Boylen said. “We haven’t had that little extra grit which you’ve got to have to win and I thought we had that to start the second half.”

The Utah defense wasn’t the main attraction in the second half, though.

Utah shot 71 percent from the field in the second half, compared to 50 percent in the first.

“We were running the floor a lot better in the second half,” Luke Nevill said. “Guys were knocking down shots, we were running the ball a lot more and that really opened opportunities for us to score.”

Offense improving with defense has been a trend for Utah all season.

“I think it is part of the basketball psyche,” Boylen said. “When you unselfishly play at the defensive end and do your assignment with force, your offense comes around. When you try and force things it doesn’t work.”

For Utah, playing better in the second half, both offensively and defensively, has been the key to the team’s six-game win streak. But being down at halftime isn’t something that particularly surprises Boylen.

“I’ve got too much respect for the league to think that we should be up at halftime of every game,” Boylen said. “We’ve got a tough league and you’ve got to play every night, you’ve got to play every minute.”

Despite the lengthy win streak and being No. 1 in the conference, the Utes are still looking to play a full 40 minutes of basketball.

“There is concern about that because we need to play a complete game,” Lawrence Borha said. “If we don’t play (a) complete game we’re going wind up losing and we’ve got to get it together.”

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Greg Harlow

Luke Nevill puts in a shot Saturday against Air Force. The Utes got off to a slow start in the first have but recovered in the second half to keep their win streak alive.