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U.'S PHIL DIXON ANXIOUS TO FIND LOST JUMP SHOT

You can lose your mind, lose your wallet, lose your way, lose your kids, but heaven help you if you lose your jump shot. You can't look for it; can't hope someone will return it; can't find it on a map or in the lost and found. All you can do is wait for the basketball muse to make your shot fall again.

Which is precisely what Phil Dixon is doing these days. Dixon is the University of Utah's three-point shooting ace. He is what coaches call a pure shooter - smooth, natural, accurate, consistent. He netted 40 points per game in high school and led the Western Athletic Conference in three-point shooting last year as a freshman. If there is something he could always do, it was shoot. Until lately.Dixon's shooting touch deserted him abruptly and mysteriously more than a month ago, just as the Utes were heading into the homestretch of the season. Dixon would like nothing more than to find his shot in time for the regular-season grand finale against BYU Saturday night in the Huntsman Center, and for next week's WAC tournament.

"It will be over in a game or two," says Dixon of the slump.

But then, that's what everyone thought long ago. In the last nine games, Dixon has made just 18 of 66 shots, including 12 of 39 from three-point range, and scored in double figures once. Or, if you prefer, in the last seven games he has made 12 of 50 shots. 3 of 12 against Colorado State. 1 of 6 against BYU. 1 of 8 against Wyoming. 3 of 7 against San Diego State. 2 of 10 against Hawaii. The numbers are virtually the same each night.

After ranking among the leaders in the WAC in three-point shooting through January, Dixon has fallen to 13th place - at 40.3 percent (50 of 124). He's shooting 38.3 percent from the field overall.

"He's in a real slump," says Jeff Judkins, who serves as Utah's shooting coach. "I don't know the answer. We've tried talking to him, tried being real positive with him. We haven't been able to figure it out. He's lost something. That happens to players, but the good players don't have it go on long."

"He's shooting terribly, and he's getting wide open shots," says Coach Rick Majerus. "I wish I knew the answer."

For his part, Dixon is as baffled as his coaches. "Every time I release a shot I think it's going in," he says. "It's not as if I'm bricking my shot. It goes in and comes out."

Dixon makes daily trips to the physical education building on the Utah campus to practice his shooting alone for 90 minutes - and then he participates in the Utes' regular practices. So far, the extra shooting sessions haven't helped.

"After I miss the first one I start thinking about it on the second shot," he says. "It's becoming a mental problem."

If Dixon believes it's a problem of the head, he also believes it's a problem of the legs, as well. "I'm not using my legs enough in my shot," he says. His high school coach told Dixon the same thing after watching him play recently in the Huntsman Center.

Maybe Dixon simply doesn't have any legs left. Judkins, for one, believes Dixon might be just plain tired. He hasn't had a vacation from the basketball court for some 16 months. Following last year's collegiate season, he reported immediately to the Canadian national team to prepare for international play. He played for Canada in the Pan American Games in Cuba, averaging more than 30 points per game, and in the World Univerity Games in England, where the Canadians finished second, losing to the U.S. (and Dixon's Ute teammate, Josh Grant) in the finals. After returning to the U.S. in August, Dixon began two-a-day practices with the Utes and accompanied them on an exhibition tour of Europe.

"I have not had one week's rest," says Dixon. "But I don't want that as an excuse."

There's no rest in sight either. Dixon probably will play for Canada in this summer's Olympic Games. "I'd like to," he says. "But it conflicts with my schedule. Practice (for the Olympic team) begins in early May, and I've got school until June. I've got to work out something with the school and with coach."

Meanwhile, Majerus tells Dixon to continue shooting. It's probably the only way to cure a slump.

"I think if I had made even just two more shots, it would've been the difference (in winning or losing)," says Dixon. "Especially in the Wyoming game (a loss). And I missed a big three against BYU (a two-point loss) . . . But the way I'm looking at it is that was February; now it's March. I get to start over."