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Minus Doleac, Utes still cruise by ‘Cats

SHARE Minus Doleac, Utes still cruise by ‘Cats

Four hours before the season's first in-state men's basketball game, Utah's 6-foot-11 All-WAC center Michael Doleac sprained an ankle badly enough that he couldn't play the Utes' first road game Wednesday night at Weber State.

The Utes were doing their shootaround about 3:30 p.m. in Salt Lake City prior to heading for Ogden. "I was beating someone over a pick and basically tripped on a line," said a disgusted Doleac, frustrated because the ankle had been taped, because it was the same ankle he hurt as a freshman and because he had to sit and watch.Utah didn't need him. Hanno Mottola (9-for-16) scored 25 with nine rebounds, tying Weber guard Damien Baskerville (7-for-17) on both totals. Utah's Andre Miller added 15 well-timed points and five assists and Trace Caton and steadying influence Drew Hansen scored 12 each as Utah defeated Weber 87-72 at the Dee Events Center.

Wildcat coach Ron Abegglen said Utah's defensive focus on Baskerville's fellow All-Big Sky first-teamer Alex Fisher (17.5 points a game in 1996-97, 2-for-11 for six points Wednesday) was a key. "They were determined that he not catch the ball," Abegglen said.

"We did play hard on defense," said Utah coach Rick Majerus, adding that he thinks Weber State "should win the (Big Sky) league."

The Utes are 2-0. Weber, which lost 6-7 Andy Jensen, brother of Utah's Alex Jensen, to a broken hand early in Monday's final exhibition game, is 0-1.

"Hanno played wonderfully," said Doleac, whose place in the lineup was taken by Jon Carlisle. "He took a couple bad shots, but he was catching it low on the block and scoring at will. He was comfortable." Of five Mottola turnovers, Doleac said, "That happens in the course of a game."

Majerus and Mottola himself were much harder on Mottola for not rebounding the first half, making some bad plays, passing up good shots, not defending and for what Majerus said were some European shots. "He tried to boogie the ball in there," Majerus said. He says he's more critical of players he expects the most from and that one of his trademarks at Utah has been to have players who are too unselfish, who try too hard to set up their teammates.

"My defense was lazy the first 10 minutes," said Mottola, "and just crazy turnovers the second half that almost cost us the game. I just toss it out and don't look," he said, attributing the errors to trying to do things too quickly. He said he felt no added pressure with Doleac out but does know he's expected to be a big contributor this season.

Utah was hardly in danger of losing. While it had only 10 rebounds to Weber's 24 at the half (losing the rebound battle 35-28 for the game after getting 65 rebounds Saturday against Cal-Fullerton), Utah took over on a Miller five-footer that made it 8-7. Wildcat Ryan Jama (16 points) had just hit from the left corner to give Weber its second and last lead of the game, 7-5. Four points each from Miller and Mottola made it 14-9.

The Utes traded two baskets for Weber's one till it was 33-20 on back-to-back threes from Miller and Caton. Utah was up 13 at the half, 40-27, and continued the 2-for-1 deal for a 19-point lead early in the second half, 50-31.

Baskerville started a furious personal rally when he stole a Mottola pass and went for a layup followed by four free throws, a Jama 5-footer and another Baskerville steal of a Mottola pass for layin. Fisher added his only 3-pointer with 2:56 left to trim Utah's lead to 11, but Caton answered with a three and the Utes gained distance with the game-ending foul-shooting derby.

Both coaches were dismayed with free throwing, Utah 20-of-28 (.714), Weber 22-28 (.786). "The officials and opposing team have nothing to do with free throws," said Abegglen, who received a technical foul on a no-call when a Weber player looked to have been pushed into a teammate dribbling the ball.

"Abysmal," was how Majerus termed Ute foul shooting, though he said they haven't practiced it much lately because of academic exams.

Weber stays home Saturday to meet old rival Nevada at about 8 p.m. (after football). Utah hosts Southern Utah Saturday in the Huntsman Center at 7:30.