Cougars pound Utes men's basketball to end regular season

By Cody Brunner Daily Utah Chronicle

March 5, 2007

Salt Lake City, UT (CSTV U-WIRE) -- It just wasn't meant to be-not this year and not in Provo. One day removed from the resignation of their coach, the U men's basketball team couldn't do much of anything right against BYU at the Marriott Center, and the result was an 85-62 loss.

The Runnin' Utes played without star center Luke Nevill for the majority of the second half due to foul trouble, which allowed the Cougars' Keena Young and Trent Plaisted to dominate around the basket. The tandem combined for 28 points and 12 rebounds in the winning effort.

"Whenever you lose your best player, it's hard to come back from that," said Utah forward Shaun Green. "The lead just kept building and building and there was nothing we could do to stop it."

The win sealed the Mountain West Conference title for the Cougars and extended their home winning streak to 31 games-the longest in the nation.

"BYU is very deserving," said Utah head coach Ray Giacoletti. "There's not a weak link in that group. They handle it, shoot it, rebound it, guard, push it-I mean, they have all of the pieces."

Utah opened up a 20-17 lead midway through the first half thanks to nimble guard play from Johnnie Bryant. But the junior, as well as the rest of the team, went cold from the field after that. The scoring drought opened the door for the Cougars, who went on a 19-6 run to end the first half.

The Utes' troubles didn't end there. Merely two minutes into the second half, Nevill picked up his third and fourth fouls, which sent him to the bench for the majority of the period.

From there, it was all BYU. Finding contributors in every nook and cranny of their roster, the Cougars went on an 18-2 run, crushing any hope of an upset for the Utes.

Senior forward Young led the charge for BYU, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the last home game of his career.

"You can't guard Keena Young-nobody can," Giacoletti said. "There isn't an answer for him. We tried to double him and he still ended up scoring 15."

Bryant was Utah's only bright spot, hitting 5-for-9 from the field and finishing with 18 points. The Utes' leading scorer and rebounder, Nevill, was held to just seven points and four rebounds. Likewise, the normally productive Green was held to nine points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Collectively, the Utes finished the game shooting a paltry 34.7 percent from the field.

"It was like one of the worst feelings I've ever had," Green said. "We kept trying to fight back, but they just made great play after great play and kept pushing the lead on us. It was just hard to endure."

The loss came only one day after Giacoletti announced his resignation from the program, effective at the end of the season. After the game, Utah players and coaches insisted that the announcement didn't affect their play in a negative way.

"People can say that it was a factor, but I don't believe that," Bryant said. "We knew we still had a job to do, but we just couldn't get it done tonight on defense or offense."

The loss dropped the Utes to a No. 7 seed in this week's Mountain West Conference tournament, which means they will play host UNLV on its home court.

Utah has lost to the Rebels in the last four meetings between the two. Earlier this season, the Utes took them to double-overtime in Las Vegas before losing, 97-94.

"Everybody knows that it could very well be our last game, so that should be some great motivation for us to play defense," Bryant said. "We're still fighting-guys haven't quit."

(C) 2007 Daily Utah Chronicle via CSTV U-WIRE

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