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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Rivalry game puts Runnin? Utes MWC title on the line

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

The Runnin’ Utes have played a lot of big games this season, but the game Saturday against BYU might be as big as it gets in the regular season.

Normally, the list of story lines could stretch the length of a basketball court when Utah and BYU play against each other. On Saturday afternoon, it could stretch for miles.

Utah will travel down to Provo with a lot riding on the line. Similar to the Holy War this past football season, the game against BYU is for the outright Mountain West Conference title. If Utah wins, it would wrap up at least a tie for first place in the MWC Tournament, while spelling disaster for the Cougars’ chances of getting a good seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the 9-4 Cougars win, they have a shot at catching the Utes atop the MWC Championship.

“We want to win the conference outright and BYU is close right now, a little too close for my liking,” said center Luke Nevill. “So it’s a huge game for us, and we just have to go out there and get it done.”

It could take the passion of the seniors to do that against BYU.

For the four Ute seniors, it could be the last time they meet up with the Cougars on the hardwood. It would also be the first time this group has swept the Cougars.

“It means a lot,” said forward Shaun Green. “Just the fact that we are playing for a championship; it is the biggest game of our career and it is against BYU. It’s basically what I came here for8212;to play for the championship against the rivalry.”

Nevill was a redshirt the last time Utah swept the Cougars, back when the Utes made the Sweet 16 in the 2004-2005 season under Ray Giacoletti. But for it to be a first for Lawrence Borha, Tyler Kepkay, Nevill and Green, it will take a monumental effort against their southern neighbors.

“It’s pretty big,” Nevill said. “We’ve played pretty well this season and this has been a good senior year so far, but this would cap it off. Sweeping BYU, especially a rivalry game like this8212;this is huge for me. We’ve had a couple of losses early on in my career and it’s time to make amends.”

A couple of losses is an understatement.

The overtime win against BYU a month ago was the Utes’ first win in two years against the Cougars. Since Utah’s berth into the NCAA Tournament four years ago, the Utes have gone 3-5 overall, with three of the five losses happening in the Marriott Center. This season, BYU is 12-2 at home, and with 22,700 fans filling the stands, it could spell trouble for the Utes.

“It’s crazy. It gets loud down there,” Green said. “I think the hardest part is they play with so much confidence down there. They play with toughness everywhere they go, but at home it just seems like they make a lot more shots. They play a lot faster and we definitely have respect for what they’ve done at home.”

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Erik Daenitz

The last time Luke Nevill played BYU he recorded a career-high 32

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