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Utes fight, but ultimately lose to UNLV

Utah's hopes of winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship came to an end Saturday night, as the Utes lost to UNLV 61-55 in the second round of the conference tournament. Like much of their losses this season, Utah was competitive but appeared to run out of gas in the end, faltering down the stretch in a game that almost mirrored their loss to UNLV earlier this month.

Unlike their game the night before, however, Luke Nevill wasn't nearly as dominant, as UNLV's athleticism kept him in check most of the night, only allowing him to score 15 points. And though Nevill wasn't in foul trouble like he was against the Lobos, he wore down toward the end. In fact, the whole team just looked completely fatigued, which is to be expected, since they had a bloody battle not even 24 hours prior when they faced New Mexico.

UNLV was led by Wink Adams and Curtis Terry, who both had 20 points each, but they could never really put away the exhausted Utes until the end. However, as has been the case for the entire season, Utah failed to make the needed shots down the stretch to win the game. And even though they took great steps in their victory against the Lobos in overtime, this game hardened my belief that they need a real go-to guy and even more depth, as Utah just seens to fade in close games and that has to be an issue of depth.

Even though it hurts to lose, after the way the season had trended, making the 2nd round of the tournament was actually a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, it's as far as Utah got, but it was just enough to guarantee the Utes a spot in the College Basketball Invitational, which isn't entirely bad, since Utah sat out postseason play the past two seasons.

The Utes are slowly getting to where they need to be and though this season didn't go according to plan, they are far better than they were this time last year. Remember, the Utes played UNLV in the first round of last year's tournament and were run off the court in embarrassing fashion. This year, they didn't give up. That has me extremely excited for the future and hopefully next year they can turn it around and start winning those close games. If they do, they'll quickly improve.

Box Score:

Player Stats
Utah Players

MIN PTS FG FG% FT FT% 3PT 3PT% OR DR REB AST STL BLK TO PF
C. Brown (G) 18 0 0-2 0.0 0-0 0.0 0-1 0.0 0 3 3 0 0 0 2 1
L. Drca (G) 27 9 3-5 60.0 2-2 100.0 1-2 50.0 0 1 1 4 0 0 0 2
L. Borha (G) 31 10 4-7 57.1 0-0 0.0 2-4 50.0 1 1 2 3 0 0 2 4
S. Green (F) 29 2 1-7 14.3 0-0 0.0 0-4 0.0 2 5 7 1 0 3 1 2
K. Tillie (F) 22 6 3-6 50.0 0-0 0.0 0-1 0.0 2 5 7 2 0 0 1 3
L. Nevill 29 15 6-11 54.5 3-4 75.0 0-0 0.0 0 5 5 2 0 3 2 2
J. Bryant 31 10 4-9 44.4 0-0 0.0 2-4 50.0 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 0
T. Kepkay 13 3 1-4 25.0 0-0 0.0 1-3 33.3 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 1

UNLV Players

MIN PTS FG FG% FT FT% 3PT 3PT% OR DR REB AST STL BLK TO PF
W. Adams (G) 37 20 6-14 42.9 6-8 75.0 2-4 50.0 0 8 8 1 0 0 0 0
R. Rougeau (G) 33 12 5-15 33.3 2-2 100.0 0-0 0.0 6 5 11 1 0 0 2 3
C. Terry (G) 40 20 8-13 61.5 1-2 50.0 3-6 50.0 1 4 5 0 2 0 1 0
C. Bailey (F) 30 4 1-4 25.0 2-2 100.0 0-1 0.0 1 2 3 2 1 0 0 2
J. Darger (F) 27 2 1-5 20.0 0-0 0.0 0-3 0.0 1 3 4 0 0 0 1 3
M. Shaw 20 3 1-4 25.0 0-0 0.0 1-3 33.3 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1
K. Wallace 13 0 0-1 0.0 0-0 0.0 0-1 0.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1