Utah Takes On UNLV, San Diego State
Utes have won five of last seven.
Jan. 11, 2001
The Utes are 9-6 on the season after winning five of their last seven games. Utah opened Mountain West Conference play with an 83-71 win over Wyoming on Monday night in Salt Lake City.
Utah has four players averaging eight points per game or better, with two in double figures. Junior guard Kevin Bradley, coming off the bench the past three games, leads the team in scoring (10.5 ppg), shooting 37.9 percent from three-point range, and assists (2.5 apg). Junior forward Phil Cullen is second in scoring (10.4 ppg), shooting 42.0 percent from three-point range, and second in rebounding (4.9 rpg). Senior center Nate Althoff (9.4 ppg) is third in scoring (9.0 ppg). Junior guard/forward Jeff Johnsen is fourth in scoring (8.9 ppg), shooting 46.8 percent from the field, 37.8 percent from behind the arc and 82.1 percent from the line. Junior forward/center Chris Burgess leads the team in rebounding (5.6 rpg).
Utah returned just one starter and three other letterwinners from last season, as well as two return missionaries who played on the 1998 Final Four team. Utah went 23-9 overall, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and tied for the inaugural Mountain West Conference championship with a 10-4 record in 1999-2000.
Majerus Takes Medical Leave for Rest of the Season
Majerus underwent a coronary angiography and stenting of two coronary artery branches on Jan. 2. He had a follow-up procedure performed on Jan. 3. Doctors reported that both procedures went very well. Prior to that, Majerus had been away from the team since late November while undergoing rehabilitation from late-September arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He had anticipated to rejoin the team on Jan. 1 before admiting himself to the hospital with chest pains. Majerus is planning to return to coaching for the 2001-02 season.
Hunsaker Directing the Utes
Hunsaker was the associate head coach under Majerus at Ball State from 1987-89. Hunsaker followed Majerus as the head coach at Ball State from 1989-93. He compiled a 97-33 record with the Cardinals, giving him the seventh-best four-year coaching record in NCAA history. During his stay in Muncie, Ind., Ball State made two trips to the NIT and two appearances in the NCAA Tournament. He led the Cardinals to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1990. Hunsaker posted four 20-win seasons at BSU. His teams also captured two Mid-American Conference championships and placed second twice. Hunsaker has a 148-61 (.708) record as a college head coach.
Hunsaker came to Utah from Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., where he had been the head coach since 1995. During his three years at Manchester, he posted a 51-27 record and led the Spartans to three of the 10 winningest seasons in the college's 85-year history. He played college basketball one season for Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins at UTEP (1972-73) and finished his career at Weber State (1974-77).
Close Calls Lead to Slow Start
Utah suffered a one-point loss (58-57) at Utah State on Dec. 6, a two-point loss at home (79-77) to Weber State on Dec. 9. The Utes had two five-point setbacks to Georgia (Nov. 24) and USC (Dec. 2) by identical 65-60 scores on neutral courts. Utah's worst loss of the season was by an 11-point margin (70-59) at 25th-ranked Texas on Dec. 30.
In four of the six losses, Utah had significant leads in the second half. The Utes led Georgia 55-36 with 12:13 to play, had a 52-48 lead over Utah State with 10:27 to go, a 56-50 cushion over Southern Utah with 10:46 remaining and a 53-50 advantage over Texas with 6:18 left.
Utah's six losses in nonconference play is the most that it has had in the past 12 years. The last time the Utes went into league play with more than five losses was in 1988-89, the last season of Lynn Archibald's tenure, when Utah went 9-6 through its pre-conference schedule. During the Majerus era, Utah has had four losses before the start of conference play just twice, going 7-4 in 1989-90 (Majerus' first season) and 10-4 in 1998-99.
The Utes have rebounded to win their last two games by an average of 12.5 points, defeating Long Beach State (80-67) on Jan. 3 and Wyoming (83-71) on Jan. 8.
Utah vs. UNLV Notes
Scouting the Runnin' Rebels
Four players are averaging double figures in scoring. Senior 6-9 forward/center Kaspars Kambala, the preseason MWC Player of the Year, is averaging 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He is shooting 60.6 percent from the field and has made it to the free throw line 101 times in 14 games, converting 74.3 percent of those attempts. Senior 6-3 guard Trevor Diggs is averaging 13.9 points and a team-best 3.1 assists per game. Sophomore 6-9 forward Dalron Johnson is averaging 12.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. Junior 6-4 guard Jermaine Lewis is averaging 10.9 points and shooting 38.5 percent from three-point range. Senior 6-4 guard Danny Brotherson, who is averaging 5.7 points and 3.4 boards, played at Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah, before going to UNLV.
Head Coach Max Good
The Utes and Runnin' Rebels split both games last season, with UNLV winning 72-66 on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas and Utah getting a decisive 96-52 win on Feb. 21 in Salt Lake City.
Utah's defense forced turnovers and shut down the UNLV attack. The Rebels shot 25 percent (8-of-32) in the first half and any hope of a comeback was buried by a 14-0 Utah run early in the second half. Dalron Johnson's basket cut UNLV's deficit to 50-27 with 17:30 to play. But Cullen and Möttölä made back-to-back three-pointers and Tony Harvey had two baskets to stretch the lead to 64-27 with 12:38 remaining. The Utes scorched the nets at 54.1 percent, compared to 30.6 percent for UNLV. Utah also had a 50 to 26 advantage on the boards and caused 21 UNLV turnovers.
Utah vs. San Diego State Preview
Scouting the Aztecs
Three players are averaging double figures in scoring. Junior 6-8 forward Randy Holocomb is averaging 17.7 points per game and 6.9 rebounds to lead the team in both categories. Junior 6-6 forward Myron Epps, one of just four returning letterwinners, is averaging 13.9 points and 5.1 boards. Junior 6-2 guard Al Faux is scoring 11.4 points per contest, shooting 44.9 percent from three-point range. Sophomore 5-9 guard Deandre Moore, a transfer from Vanderbilt, leads the team in assists with 5.2 per game.
Head Coach Steve Fisher
Fisher faced Utah twice while at Michigan. Utah lost to Michigan, 81-65, on Dec. 1, 1990 in Ann Arbor, Mich., in Rick Majerus' first full season at Utah. Fisher's Wolverines got the best of the Utes again on Nov. 23, 1994 in the Maui Invitational, 73-69.
Jeff Johnsen and Phil Cullen each added 11 for Utah, which shot 53.8 percent. The Aztecs did not score their first basket until David Abramowitz made a three-pointer more than five minutes into the game. Utah's pressure defense had already forced five turnovers by that point. Abramowitz made 7-of-9 three-pointers for 21 points while Marcelo Correa had 12 for the Aztecs.
A dunk by Phil Cullen followed by two free throws from Althoff gave Utah a 19-5 lead with 9:14 left in the first half. The Utes pushed their lead to 27-9 when Mike Puzey added a pair of foul shots. Utah led 42-22 at halftime. San Diego State made 8-of-16 threes and shot 47.9 percent from the field. Utah also forced 22 turnovers and had a 30 to 25 advantage on the glass.
Two Aztecs played junior college ball in the state of Utah. Senior guard Jim Roban, a native of Las Vegas, played at Dixie Junior College in St. George. Senior forward Michael Marion played at the College of Eastern Utah in Price.
Game #15 Rewind
Josh Davis led the Cowboys with 18 points while Marcus Bailey had 11, but Utah held Wyoming's imposing Nigerian frontcourt in check. Uche Nsonwu-Amadi scored eight points and his cousin, Ugo Udezue, went scoreless.
The Utes held a 36-32 lead after an emotional and physical first half but did a better job of setting the tempo in the second half. Utah went ahead 59-49 with 10:40 on the clock after two free throws by Marc Jackson. It was 66-56 after Nick Jacobsen was fouled while attempting a three-pointer and made three free throws with 7:53 to play.
The Cowboys refused to quit, pulling within 74-66 after consecutive baskets by Marcus Bailey, the second with 4:24 to play. But Utah put it away by scoring the next six points.
Cullen scored inside and Burgess brought fans to their feet by slamming home an alley-oop from Travis Spivey. When Burgress scored on a three-foot flip on the next Utah possession, the Utes led 80-66 with 3:05 to play.
Changing of the Guard
Spivey had four points and three assists in 27 minutes, while Bradley contributed five points, four assists and one steal in 24 minutes against the 49ers. Their effort helped Utah commit a season-low nine turnovers. Entering the Long Beach State game, Utah was averaging 16.5 turnovers per game. The Utes are 6-1 when they commit fewer turnovers than their opponent this season.
Utah also used Marc Jackson at point guard against Wyoming on Monday, and the freshman from Salt Lake City delivered. Jackson made 7-of-8 free throws with three rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in 12 minutes. Spivey, who played 29 minutes as the starter, got four points, three rebounds two assists and two turnovers. In a physical game, the Utes committed 12 turnovers--its third-best total in 15 games--including just two in the second half.
Conference Rebounding Streak Comes to an End
The Nation's Most Dominant Team in League Play the Last Six Years
The Utes have also won 38 consecutive league games at home, which is the nation's longest current streak. This season, the Utes have a chance to tie Kansas' string of 44 consecutive conference home wins, which was snapped by Nebraska on Feb. 10, 1999. Utah's last home conference loss was to Fresno State (65-64) on Jan. 8, 1996.
Home (Not So) Sweet Home
The last time Utah lost two home games in the same season was in 1993-94, when it went 11-3 and 7-2 in league games in the Huntsman Center. Since then, Utah has posted two one-loss seasons in the JMHC, going 14-1 in 1995-96 and 13-1 in 1996-97, and four undefeated seasons.
The Utes have gone unbeaten seven times in the 32-year history of the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Six of those undefeated home seasons have come under Rick Majerus: 1990-91 (16-0), 1992-93 (15-0), 1994-95 (15-0), 1997-98 (13-0), 1998-99 (14-0) and 1999-2000 (17-0). The Utes are 151-12 (.926) in the Huntsman Center under Majerus (including the five games he has not coached this season) and have never lost back-to-back home games.
Inside the Numbers
Utes Dealing with Rare Occurrence of No Returning All-Conference Selections
Discounting Majerus' first season (1989-90), the only time the Utes haven't returned a first or second team all-conference selection was in 1993-94. That season resulted in the only non-winning season of the Majerus era with Utah going 14-14 overall and 8-10 in the Western Athletic Conference.
In 1991-92, Josh Grant was back for his fourth season with the Utes as the reigning WAC Player of the Year and the only returning all-conference honoree on the roster. However, he took a medical redshirt after helping the Utes win the first three games of the season. Without their leader, Utah finished 24-11 overall and 9-7 in conference play.
Cullen Coming On
In the six games prior to the Concordia contest (Dec. 2-22), Cullen averaged 13.5 points, shooting 47.1 percent (25-of-53) from the field, 48.5 percent (17-of-35) from three-point range and 70.0 percent (14-of-20) from the free throw line. Through 15 games, Cullen is second on the team in scoring (10.4 ppg), shooting 46.4 percent from the field and a team-best (over 20 attempts) 42.0 percent from three-point range. He is also second on the team in rebounding (4.9 rpg).
After playing the previous three games off the bench, Cullen got the start against Washington State on Dec. 16. Cullen responded with a career-high 21 points, making a personal-best five three-pointers in six attempts. He also shot 6-of-8 from the field and 4-of-6 from the line in 24 minutes. Cullen led the Utes with six rebounds in the game.
Highlighting other games, Cullen scored 18 points, making 6-of-10 shots from the field and 4-of-7 three-pointers, in 18 minutes against Southern California on Dec. 2. He had 13 points, a blocked shot and three steals in 26 minutes against Utah State on Dec. 6. Cullen followed that up with 15 points, making all four field goals, both three-pointers and 5-of-6 free throws, in 19 minutes against Weber State on Dec. 9. In the league opener against Wyoming, Cullen got 17 points, four rebounds and three steals in 28 minutes.
Bradley Providing Good Production
Bradley had a 3-1 assists to turnover ratio through the first four games of the season. He had his best floor game of the season against Washington State on Dec. 16, getting five assists and one steal to just one turnover. He also had 12 points, making all six free throws and 3-of-7 field goals, in 31 minutes. Against Southern Utah on Dec. 22, Bradley scored in double figures for the seventh time this season with a team-high 18 points.
A native of Los Angeles, Bradley was named the conference player of the year as a senior at Crenshaw High School.
All in the Family
Jeff (G/F, 6-4, 200), a junior, is fourth on the team in scoring (8.9 ppg), shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three-point range. He is also averaging 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists, and has led the team in scoring three times and assists seven times.
Britton (F, 6-9, 205), a sophomore, is fifth on the team in scoring (7.6 ppg) and third in rebounds (4.8 rpg). He has also scored in double figures in six of the last nine games. Britton got a career-high 23 points, making 8-of-14 field goals and 4-of-6 three-pointers, with eight rebounds and three blocked shots in 27 minutes against Long Beach State.
Jeff began his career at Utah in 1996-97 before going on a two-year LDS Church mission to Fresno, Calif. He averaged 5.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 32 games last season with five starts. Britton who resumes his Utah career this season, played for the Utes in 1997-98 before going on his LDS Church mission to Houston, Texas. He averaged 3.5 points and 1.0 rebounds in 21 games as a freshman.
The Johnsens, who hail from Murray, Utah, hadn't played together for four years. The last season the Johnsens played together, they led Murray High School to the Utah 4A state title in 1996.
Rick Majerus has literally made his program a family affair at Utah. The Johnsens are the fifth set of brothers to play for Majerus spanning his 12-year career at the U. However, they are the first to play together.
Burgess Playing Bigger Role
In his first start, Burgess got seven points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes against Southern California in the Wooden Classic on Dec. 2. It was his first college game in his home state. He had a Utah career-high 15 points while making 6-of-8 field goals, eight rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals in 30 minutes against Weber State on Dec. 9.
Burgess was named to the Puerto Rico Shootout all-tournament team. In the three-game tournament, Burgess averaged 11.7 points, shooting 56.5 percent from the field, and 6.0 rebounds while playing 24.0 minutes per game. He also had five steals and four blocked shots. He led Utah with 12 points and eight rebounds against Georgia in the semifinals. The Duke transfer in his first season on the court with the Utes also had 12 points, two boards, three steals and two blocked shots in 22 minutes against Memphis in the third-place game.