Second half shows Utes’ skill

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

It’s been three weeks since the Runnin’ Utes have come up short against an opponent. That time frame would have been significantly shorter if not for the U men’s basketball team’s ability to come back from a first half deficit.

In all but two games during the Utes’ six-game win streak, Utah has played from behind after halftime. Aside from the thrillers against BYU and New Mexico, the Utes won each game by at least nine points, making it easy to consider the Utes a second half team.

“I’ve got too much respect for the league to say that we should be up every game at the half,” said head coach Jim Boylen. “Do I want to be? Absolutely, but we got a good league.”

The league might be good, but statistically, the Utes have dominated in the second half.

In their first game of the nearly month-long string of wins, the Utes were trailing BYU 40-39 at halftime. Utah allowed the Cougars to shoot 59 percent from the field on 16-of-27 shooting. The Utes began the second half playing stifling defense, especially on Lee Cummard, who missed just one shot in the first half. After the break, Cummard had four points, the Cougars shot 38 percent from the field and Utah found a way to win despite not playing perfect basketball.

In their most recent game, the Utes allowed the Falcons to shoot 62 percent from the 3-point line in the first half, which allowed Air Force to take a 28-27 lead into halftime. This came as a surprise to most people, as the worst team in the league held a lead at the half against the best team.

However, Utah came out of the locker room ready to play. As a team, the Utes shot 69 percent from beyond the arc, outscoring the Falcons 47-31 in the second half8212;a similar formula for the Utes’ success as of late.

“I thought we made some adjustments at halftime,” said Boylen about the second half of the Air Force game. “Defensively, we stepped a little closer to everybody, and I thought we were a little more aggressive.”

Utah’s defense has tightened up in the second halves of games, which forces teams to make tough shots8212;something Utah’s opponents haven’t been able to do as well as the Utes.

Colorado State hosts the Utes tonight at 6. The Rams managed to pose a threat to Utah in their last meeting on Jan. 17. They kept up with the Utes in the first half, leaving the game tied 35-35 after 20 minutes.

Utah’s adjustments on defense8212;which has become the Runnin’ Utes M.O. in conference play8212;shut down the Rams offense, holding them to 30 percent shooting in the second half, while the Utes shot 61 percent. Senior leadership has been responsible for the solid play when the game is coming down to the wire. Boylen has repeatedly made the decision to leave his four seniors in at the end of games, so it’s rare to see the veterans average less than 14 minutes each in the second half.

“Their improvement, their development and then their urgency has been a great combination for us,” Boylen said.

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Tyler Cobb

Shaun Green was named MWC player of the week for his performances against San Diego State and Air Force. The Utes will look to extend their winning streak again tonight at Colorado State. Fort Collins