Utah coach Rick Majerus has had enough of crossover games, matchups between Western Athletic Conference members that don't count in the standings because the teams are from different divisions.
"It's the most ludicrous thing I've ever seen," Majerus said after his Mountain Division Utes defeated the Pacific Division's Rice 60-49 in Houston on Saturday.The once-beaten Utes want to regain their lead atop the Mountain Division after New Mexico knocked them off with an upset a week ago. But their schedule isn't helping.
No. 5 Utah and No. 12 New Mexico both played conference opponents on Saturday and both teams won. The Utes' victory, however, didn't count.
Majerus said the fact they played a noncounting conference game was no excuse for the Utes' less than convincing win.
Utah (20-1, 7-1) was tied with Rice (5-17, 2-6) at the half.
"Passion," said Majerus. "It's about gutty, gritty, determined effort. I'm not sure we got that from everybody here today."
Utah, led by Mike Doleac, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, shut down the Owls after the break, outscoring them 10-2 in the opening minutes. Drew Hansen and Hanno Mottola each added 16 for Utah.
In New Mexico, the Lobos (18-3, 8-1 WAC) also stepped things up after a slow first half. Colorado State (18-4, 6-3) outplayed New Mexico early, taking a 36-34 edge into the break.
But Clayton Shields hit seven 3-pointers, and the Lobos converted five straight Colorado State turnovers into 11 points in the second half for a 77-62 win. It extended the Lobos home winning streak to 40.
"This game was something we really had to earn," said Shields, who led all five starters in double figures on Saturday with 25 points.
The Rams, who were coming off a 64-58 win against Texas-El Paso on Thursday, had their hopes of upsetting New Mexico at home quickly dashed.
"I am not disappointed in our team, not at all," said Rams coach Stew Morrill. "We had 30 great minutes. Right now I definitely think we're one of the top 64 teams in the nation."
In other conference games Saturday, Fresno State defeated Southern Methodist, 80-73; Wyoming edged Texas-El Paso, 67-55; and Texas Christian topped San Jose State, 119-84.
Jeron Roberts went 20-for-20 from the line and finished with 33 points to lead Wyoming (15-6, 5-4) to the win against UTEP (12-9, 3-6). It was UTEP's fifth loss in its last six games.
In California, Fresno State also heated things up in the second half to win for the seventh time in their last eight games. Winfred Walton scored 16 of his 19 points in the final half to lead the Bulldogs (13-8, 6-2) to the win against SMU (14-6, 3-5).
Lee Nailon scored 44 points for Texas Christian (20-4, 9-0). The Pacific Division Leaders won their ninth straight against San Jose State (2-17, 0-7).
In other WAC games, Tulsa (14-9, 5-3) defeated Brigham Young (6-17, 1-7), and San Diego State (11-9, 4-4) beat Air Force (8-11, 1-7).
In the only nonconference game, Nevada-Las Vegas (12-10, 3-5) defeated Wofford 79-52.