Photo courtesy of Deseret News
Utah rolls hapless Montana TechThe Boylen era kicked off to a great start Thursday night as the Utes predictably pounded Montana Tech 83-40. The victory ushers in what many Utah fans hope will be a successful run under new head coach Jim Boylen. And by the looks of things, Utah appears to be on a solid path.
Montana Tech, a struggling NAIA school, couldn't get much done in the paint, as the Utes held the Orediggers without a layup the entire game and to only 16 second half points. The defensive effort by Utah was in stark contrast to last season, where the Utes often succumbed to defensive lapses through long stretches of the game under former head coach Ray Giacoletti. That ultimately led to his firing and when Jim Boylen arrived from Michigan State, he quickly put an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball. It seems to have paid off.
Defensive mindsetWhile the offense faired pretty well Thursday, the defense should get most of the praise. Mostly, though, because Utah fans weren't accustom to defensive success under the former coaching staff. And while you don't want to read too much into a game against a team from a lesser division, there were some positive signs.
The Utes held the Orediggers to only 29% shooting on the night and an impressive 21% in the second half alone. Montana Tech was led Jeramie Hopson, who finished with 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting. The only other player who reached double digits in points was Shea Bradshaw with 11.
Second half adjustments keyA sign of a good coach is the adjustments made in the second half of a game. Rest assured, it seems that's something Boylen can excel in. The Utes were a far different team in the second half than they were in the first, holding the Orediggers to only 16 second half points and poor shooting all around.
In the first half, Utah looked as if they would be back to their old ways of poor perimeter defense, as Montana Tech shot a blistering 50% from outside. However, in the second half Utah held them to only 21% from downtown and that success stifled any hope for a close game.
Who are these guys?The players' names were the same, but their look vastly different from last year. Stephen Weigh, who only averaged 8 points per game last year, burned it up for 21. Shaun Green was also impressive, as he hit 3 of 4 three pointers and scored 11 points. Luke Nevill also had a solid game, scoring 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting. As a whole, Utah's offense looked productive. They shot 54% on the night and managed 44% from outside.
Familiar meetingThe Utes and Orediggers are familiar foes, playing each other last year in an exhibition game. That was the second game of Utah's exhibition season and one that saw similar scoring results, but a far different flow to the game.
In 2006, the Utes rolled Montana Tech 76-50 at the Huntsman Center, however allowed them to shoot 43% from the field and 36% from outside. In that game, Shaun Green and Johnnie Bryant led all scorers with 13 points each.
New lookGoing with a retro feel to celebrate the 100th year of Utah basketball, the Utes unveiled their new uniforms prior to the game. The look, though plainer than last year, is sharp and clean and definitely alludes to the tradition and history of Utah basketball.
Quotes from the game
Jim Boylen"I think we have a ways to go defensively with our grit and our toughness. But we'll take it for our first night."
"We gave them nine points in that first half that never should have happened. It's because of mental focus. That can't happen at this level, people are too good."
Stephen Weigh"Defensively, I'm sure everyone could see there was a big, big difference compared to last year. We didn't have as many lapses. Once we limit that more, we'll be great."
Montana Tech Head Coach Nate Larson"Utah is a very good team. They're big athletes. It's a big step up for us to play here, but we're very fortunate they invited us out to play in this game. Bottom line, it was a great experience for our guys."
What's next...The Utes will finish their exhibition season when they face Northwest Nazarene Tuesday at the Huntsman Center. Then Friday night they open their 2007-08 season against South Carolina Upstate.