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Utes start off slow, fight back to beat Aztecs

Special thanks to the Deseret News

At first, it looked like Utah was once again taking a step back. After winning three straight and clawing their way back toward the top of the conference, the Utes started Saturday's game against the Aztecs with missed shots and turnovers, allowing San Diego State to score the first 11 points of the game. It appeared -- at least early on -- Utah was well on their way to a disastrous loss on what was to be a historical night.

With Utah celebrating its 100th year of basketball, the game felt like an afterthought to the many fans and former players who were on hand for the ceremony. And for the first 6:38 of the game, it seemed the same could be said for the current Utah players. However, after that sluggish start, Utah gave past Utes and the fans a reason to believe this team is slowly regaining its position as one of the west's elite programs.

Utah was led by Lawrence Borha, who had 22 points on 7 of 11 shooting. He also connected on 3 of 4 three pointers, as Utah won its 4th straight for the first time since starting the 2005-06 season 4-0. The victory now puts Utah in 4th place in the conference, a game out of 3rd.

Even though San Diego State jumped out to an early double digit lead, Utah battled back and even took a slight lead into the break. In the second half, neither team could really pull away until the final minute, where Utah put the game out of reach and won 72-66.

The Aztecs were without Kyle Spain, who has been suspended for the remainder of the year. Yet even with his absence, other players stepped up for San Diego State. Namely, DJ Gay, a freshman making his first start of his career. Gay led the Aztecs in scoring with 21 and was 5 of 6 from outside, completing the best game of his short career. But it was not enough in the tightly contested game, as Utah avenged their overtime loss to the Aztecs earlier in the season.

As important as the game was, the night still belonged to the former Utes. It was about 100 years of excellence and history.

Special thanks to the Deseret News

At the half, Utah honored some of the greatest players to ever wear the Utah uniform and though not all could make it, 12 did. Those honored at the half were:

Andrew Bogut - 2003-05
Jerry Chambers - 1963-66
Tom Chambers - 1977-81
Mike Doleac - 1994-98
Arnie Ferrin - 1943-48
Vern Gardner - 1945-49
Josh Grant - 1988-91/1992-93
Alex Jensen - 1994-95/1997-2000
Jeff Jonas - 1973-77
Jeff Judkins - 1974-78
Bill Kinner - 1932-36
Billy McGill - 1959-62
Andre Miller - 1995-99
Mike Newlin - 1968-71
Keith Van Horn - 1993-97

Utah's victory was the icing on the cake and just maybe the Utes are returning to their past glories.

Quick Stats:

Utah Players


MIN PTS FG FG% FT FT% 3PT 3PT% OR DR REB AST STL BLK TO PF
T. Kepkay (G) 20 4 1-3 33.3 2-2 100.0 0-1 0.0 0 3 3 1 1 0 2 1
L. Borha (G) 34 22 7-11 63.6 5-6 83.3 3-4 75.0 0 4 4 2 3 0 4 3
S. Green (F) 22 3 1-2 50.0 0-0 0.0 1-1 100.0 0 1 1 0 2 1 0 5
C. Brown (F) 15 5 2-2 100.0 1-1 100.0 0-0 0.0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0
L. Nevill (C) 31 10 3-7 42.9 4-5 80.0 0-0 0.0 1 4 5 0 1 2 2 1
L. Drca 22 7 2-7 28.6 3-3 100.0 0-1 0.0 0 3 3 4 0 0 3 3
J. Bryant 30 17 4-9 44.4 7-8 87.5 2-6 33.3 0 1 1 2 1 0 0 2
K. Tillie 21 4 1-5 20.0 2-2 100.0 0-1 0.0 4 5 9 0 1 2 1 3
M. Grim 5 0 0-0 0.0 0-0 0.0 0-0 0.0 1 2 3 0 0 1 0 0

San Diego State Players

MIN PTS FG FG% FT FT% 3PT 3PT% OR DR REB AST STL BLK TO PF
D. Gay (G) 27 21 6-7 85.7 4-4 100.0 5-6 83.3 1 1 2 0 1 0 1 4
M. Thomas (G) 30 10 3-3 100.0 2-2 100.0 2-2 100.0 0 1 1 1 2 0 1 3
L. Wade (F) 34 16 4-15 26.7 7-9 77.8 1-3 33.3 0 6 6 5 0 0 0 1
B. White (F) 33 8 3-4 75.0 2-4 50.0 0-0 0.0 2 3 5 3 2 0 2 5
R. Amoroso (C) 33 11 5-11 45.5 1-2 50.0 0-2 0.0 1 5 6 1 0 1 3 3
K. Davis 10 0 0-3 0.0 0-0 0.0 0-2 0.0 0 2 2 0 0 0 2 1
R. Williams 21 0 0-4 0.0 0-0 0.0 0-3 0.0 0 1 1 1 1 0 3 4
J. Pastorek 7 0 0-1 0.0 0-0 0.0 0-0 0.0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 1
C. Lamb 5 0 0-0 0.0 0-0 0.0 0-0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2

Quotes:

Jim Boylen

"It was a big game for us to tie for third place. We've had an uphill battle, which is how it works when you are trying to re-build a program. Those banners and trophies that people get mean something. It doesn't come easy. I'm proud of my guys. We have more tough games coming up. I talk about games being tough, and that was what this game was."

"We just said to push the ball, run the ball, and I think that's what kept us in there (early in the game). I give credit to the guys for adjusting and driving the ball. In the second half, we talked about driving the ball, and I think we did heck of a job. We got to the rim."

"Luka Drca is a big-time basketball player. Johnnie Bryant is a big-time basketball player. Lawrence Borha was a man today, and I'm proud of him."

"Kim [Tillie] was playing a little selfish (early in the game). He was trying too hard for his offense and trying to be the hero. I told him, 'Either you are going to dive on loose balls and rebound the ball, or you're not going to play.' I give him credit for changing his mindset. He was the difference in the second half."

"Lawrence [Borha] had the best week of practice of any guy we have. He's been the most focused in practice than any guy we have. He's done the best in school so far this semester of any guy we have. I threatened him that if he doesn't get a 3.0 (grade-point average) that he's moving back into the dorms. I threatened that if he didn't start guarding, he won't play as much."

"I loved the crowd and I loved the red. This is their team. I am the caretaker of it right now. But it's the fans and university's team, and those ex players' team. Those players built this place and they own those banners."

Utah Junior Lawrence Borha

"I was aggressive. I just tried to go out there and drive the ball. They left me open, and kind of disrespected me in a way, and I hit open shots. They were worried about Luke Nevill and Johnnie Bryant, but you can't do that. You have to worry about the other players too."

"I think the excitement of wanting to win the game for them [the veteran players] got to us. I guess we were too antsy in the first half and didn't play well. We put too much pressure on ourselves, but we cooled down to come back."

"Coach always talks about mental toughness and our team is getting better at it. We battled back from an 11-0 start. We are a good team, and we are getting better every single day."

San Diego State Head Coach Steve Fisher

"Utah was good at fighting hard, which we didn't do as much. So we really need to step it up for our Wyoming game on Tuesday."