Win big for Utes in more ways than one

By By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

As hard as it is to kill two birds with one stone, the Runnin’ Utes managed to drop three Wednesday night.

The Utes secured the first 20-win season in the Jim Boylen era, increased their conference-leading win streak to eight and won their 500th win in the Huntsman Center with a 70-60 win over the visiting UNLV Rebels.

Luke Nevill picked up his 11th double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds, edging out the Rebels by the same 10-point margin they beat the Utes with in Las Vegas more than a month ago.

“I told my team before the game, “This is as big a game as you’ll play in your life,'” said head coach Boylen.

Just like the last time the Utes and Rebels met on the hardwood, Utah would take a double-figure lead into halftime. The Utes extended the lead to double figures with 12 minutes left in the second half but nearly let history repeat itself. The difference was that during the past seven games, the Utes have learned how to close out games in the second half. That experience came in handy against the Rebels.

UNLV played a tough press the second half of the game, which confused the Utes and allowed the Rebels to cut what was an 11-point deficit down to 57-55 with 2:56 left.

After a 9-0 Rebel run, the Utes answered, starting with a cold-blooded 3-pointer by Luka Drca to put Utah up by five.

“I was open and took a big shot and made it,” Drca said. “I don’t hesitate when I shoot.”

He then added two big free throws, extending Utah’s lead 62-55.

Although he didn’t have the usually productive game, UNLV guard Wink Adams showed his leadership with two of his nine points to pull UNLV back to 62-57. Then Utah’s seniors answered.

Tyler Kepkay knocked down a pull-up 15-footer from the elbow to extend the Utes’ lead to seven with 1:25 left in the contest. Lawrence Borha added a jump hook in the paint that gave the Utes an eight-point lead 12 seconds later.

“Borha’s hook in the lane (was huge),” Boylen said. “I didn’t teach him that hook, but we’ll take it.”

Utah turned the ball over 20 times compared to the Rebels’ seven, but still found a way to win. The difference-maker was Utah’s continued ability to outrebound its opponent. The top rebounding team in the MWC edged UNLV out 38-24 and held it to 34 percent shooting for the game, under 40 percent in both halves.

“They had one stretch where they had a few offensive rebounds, but we just have to get stops and rebounds,” Nevill said. “Don’t let the other team get second opportunities to shoot the ball. That was crucial for us and that was a reason for our success.”

Four other Utes finished in double figures, including seniors Shaun Green, Borha and Kepkay. Carlon Brown finished with 10 points as Utah played just seven guys in the win to stay two games up in the conference standings.

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Tyler Cobb

Carlon Brown scored 10 points and the Utes earned their 500th win at the Huntsman Center, beating UNLV 70-60.

Thien Sok

Shaun Green helped Utes balanced attack with 12 points, including three 3-pointers, versus UNLV Wednesday night. The Utes beat the Rebels 70-60.

Thien Sok

Luke Nevill scored 19 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in the Utah?s 70-60 win over UNLV Wednesday.