Ok, is this some sick joke Giacoletti is playing on us? Utah goes from losing to a mediocre UCF team to completely dominating a Virginia squad that defeated a top-10 Arizona team earlier this season. And when I say dominate, I mean it in every definition of the word.
The Utes won 94-70 and pretty much had the game in hand at the half. A 54 point second half is the most points Utah has scored in a half this season and this is clearly their best game of the year. Too bad it came after the Utes had struggled through a 4-6 record and losses to the likes of Southern Utah, Santa Clara, Rhode Island and Central Florida. Could this be the turning point Utah has been looking for all season long? Probably not, but I sure hope so.
Luke Nevill and Johnnie Bryant both led the game with 26 points, while Nevill hit on 10 of 12 shots and pulled down 11 boards, a game high. The Utes surprise player of the day however was Curtis Eatmon, making his first career start with the Utes. Running the point he scored 4 points on 2-2 shooting, but most impressively controlled the flow of the game for Utah -- who has struggled at the point all year.
The Utes shot 62% from the field and held Virginia to only 42%, one of their worst shooting performances of the season. The Cavaliers were led by J.R. Reynolds, who had 25 points on 7-16 shooting, but got little effort outside of his play. This is only Virginia's third loss of the season, though they did get walloped by Appalachian State, who defeated UCF and will play in the San Juan Shootout title game.
With this victory, the Utes are at least assured of not playing in the loser, loser bracket -- the 0-2 teams (Virginia and Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, the host team). Utah will play Northwestern, who defeated Puerto Rico-Mayaguez 62-55. Northwestern is 7-3 on the season, with their most impressive victory coming against Miami in November.
With this victory the Utes run their record to 5-6 and once again climb to within a game of .500. After playing Northwestern, Utah travels back home for a game against Albany before starting the conference slate against UNLV on the road.