Photo courtesy of Deseret News
Fast start propels Utah to dominant victoryEven though Utah sat at 4-2 entering its game against Utah State, they had yet to play a complete game. That changed Wednesday night, as the Utes rolled Utah State 72-48. Utah paved way for its blowout victory with an 11-0 start and never looked back. It was Utah's largest victory over the Aggies in 8 years and pushed their record to 5-2 on the season, matching the best start in four years.
Utah's success came early and often, as head coach Jim Boylen employed a 3-man weave, which opened up the offense and allowed Utah to launch many uncontested shots. It dictated the pace and Utah State had no answers, going cold from outside and rarely having much penetration when they drove to the basket. Utah started the game with a flurry of threes, connecting on 8 of 10, before finishing 9 of 18 on the night.
Utah's offense shot nearly 54% from the field, including a blistering 57% in the second half. But it was Utah's defensive effort that truly shined, as they held the Aggies' offense in check most of the night.
Jaycee Carroll, the Aggies top scorer on the season, was held to only 11 points on 4-7 shooting, while the rest of Utah State could manage only 37% from the field. Their three point shooting was even worse, as they shot only 33% from behind the arc. That defensive intensity proved to be the difference maker and is even more proof this team has improved vastly over where they were a year ago.
Borha's defense shinesThough he wasn't much of a scorer Wednesday night, Borha's defense can't be ignored. He played Jaycee Carroll better than I've seen any player play him during his time with the Aggies and that's saying a lot. The defense he brings to the table is a big reason why Utah is 5-2 and not 2-5 or 3-4 (like they were last year at this time). In 26 minutes, Borha finished with 3 points, 5 assists and 1 steal. But the pressure he put on Carroll shouldn't be ignored.
Kim Tillie proving to be viable weaponUnder Ray Giacoletti, Tillie wasn't much and it didn't look like he would be much under Boylen, either. However, Tillie has probably had the best turnaround of any player on this team. Wednesday night was more evidence of this, as Tillie finished with 18 points on 7-7 shooting (2-2 from outside). He also pulled down 6 boards and all that in only 18 minutes of play. To compare, Tillie's highest point total in a game under Ray Giacoletti was a meager 6 points.
Boylen rips Nevill, he comes out tougherLuke Nevill is soft. This has been established and Wednesday night, it looked as if he would continue that soft play. However, after missing a lay-up which could have easily been a dunk, Coach Boylen pulled him aside and ripped him a new one. That must have lit a fire under Nevill, as he came out with forcefulness yet seen this season. That tough play should be expected every game and shouldn't only happen when the coach rips into the player because he's playing too soft.
Nevill finished the game with 20 points and 14 boards, but Boylen wasn't happy, stating after the game that Nevill could have easily gone for 30 and 20. It's true, because there were blown opportunities much of the game. Nevill can't continue to opt for a lay-up when he's 8 foot 10 and can just throw the damn ball down. If he can turn into the type of player Boylen wants him to be, he will be a top-20 NBA draft pick and most likely lead Utah to the type of success we saw under Andrew Bogut. Sadly, that's a big if at this moment and I wouldn't bet on it. Hope I'm wrong.
Quotes from the game
Jim Boylen"I watched the starts of our last three games, trying to figure out why we were getting off to sluggish starts. We tried to do a better job on the first five or six plays tonight and get off to a quicker start. We've been a little stagnant early."
"This is a big win for us against a quality opponent and an in-state rival."
"Jaycee Carrol is a big part of (Utah State's) team. Lawrence Borha and Luka Drca did a good job on him tonight."
Luke Nevill"We came out and defended really well. We shut down (Jaycee) Carrol at the start and stopped him from getting off to a good night. He's the key to their team."
Utah State Head Coach Stew Morrill"In the past, we've played well here and we've also had some poor outings here. That's what happened tonight." "They beat us in every phase of the game, but I'm really disappointed in our competitiveness tonight. We had guys that just didn't compete. You can't have no-shows when you have as many young players as we have playing." "Utah played and executed well. We didn't guard them well, we couldn't score and we got out-rebounded. They beat us in every phase of the game." "Right now, Utah is a better basketball team than we are and that's not even close." "They got on a barrage at the start and we were behind the eight ball all night after that."
What's next...The Utes travel to Portland, Oregon for the Pape Jam against the Oregon Ducks this Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:00. This marks the first time since the 2003 NCAA Tournament that the Utes have faced the Ducks, Utah won that game 60-58 to advance to the second round. Oregon is currently ranked 18th in the nation and has a 6-1 record, with that lone loss coming at Saint Mary's.