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It wasn’t pretty, but Utes get win

Game vs. Gaels had more turnovers than baskets

SHARE It wasn’t pretty, but Utes get win

MORAGA, Calif. — Ugh!

What else can you say about a basketball game that featured more turnovers than baskets, horrendous shooting by both teams and the lowest point totals by either team in 25 years?

Utah and Saint Mary's College may have sent college basketball reeling back to the peach basket era with Monday night's sorry exhibition that ended with Utah winning 41-35.

Is that right, 41-35? When does the second half begin?

Even the coaches didn't try to gloss over a game that resembled a episode of "Bloopers and Blunders" more than Division I basketball.

"There were probably 100 college games played tonight and 99 might have been played with better rhythm and artistry," said Utah coach Rick Majerus. "I don't know if there will be a lower score this year in Division I."

"Hey, four points in this game was big — that was a run," said Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett.

With the win before 2,237 at McKeon Pavilion, the Utes improved to 10-3 — their seventh victory in a row — while the Gaels dropped to 5-8 on the season.

This was a game most experts figured Utah would win easily — a nationally respected program against a school coming off four straight losing seasons, including last year's dreadful 2-27 mark.

However, the Utes were playing without starters Chris Burgess and Travis Spivey and their absence showed on offense where the Utes "didn't have much cohesiveness," according to Majerus.

Burgess is out for at least a month with a foot injury, while Spivey is suspended following a flareup with Majerus in practice last week.

Majerus refused to address the suspension of Spivey which resulted from a confrontation in practice in which Spivey walked out and didn't return.

When asked if Spivey is coming back, he said, "I don't know that."

When asked if Spivey was still part of the team, he said, "I'm not going to comment on that."

When asked whose decision it was whether Spivey returned or not, he said, "I'm not going to get into that."

Majerus didn't want to talk about it before the game either and everyone else in the Ute party was tight-lipped about Spivey. Perhaps they were hoping that no one would notice that their starting point guard was not suited up for the game.

Spivey's absence was indeed noticeable, as freshman Eric Osmundson started in his place and committed six turnovers in the first half alone as the two teams went into the locker room tied 19-19.

Another freshman, Martin Osimani, who had been supplanted by Osmundson as the backup point guard earlier in the year, replaced Osmundson with 14:47 left in the game and never went out.

Osimani, who had two turnovers in two minutes in Utah's last game, finished with a season-high 25 minutes and no turnovers while adding seven points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal. He might have regained his backup spot and could even become the starter if Spivey doesn't return.

"He settled down and played good defense tonight," said Majerus. "He hit his foul shots (3 of 4), better than anybody else, and he was safe with the ball."

And what did Osimani think about his best game as a Ute?

We'll never know because Majerus wouldn't let Osimani be interviewed by the media because he's a freshman.

Jeff Johnsen, who led the Utes with 11 points, praised the play of the young Uruguayan , saying, "We had Osimani step up and it was good to see him get some confidence."

Johnsen scored eight consecutive points for Utah between the 12:26 and 5:54 marks to bring the Utes from a two-point deficit to a 32-30 lead. The Gaels misfired on 10 of 11 possessions during that stretch, which Majerus attributed to his team's defense.

"We're a pretty good defensive team and tonight we defended pretty well," he said. "Saint Mary's did a great job defensively too."

With the score 34-33, Nick Jacobson missed two foul shots, but Johnsen made a steal and Osimani got free for a layup to make it 36-33.

Then with 31 seconds left and the Utes clinging to a 38-35 lead, Osimani was fouled. On the first of a 1-and-1, his shot missed badly to the right, but a Gael player was called with a lane violation. With a second chance, Osimani sank a crucial free throw that put the Utes up by four.

After Samuel Saint-Jean missed a 3-pointer at the other end, Osimani was fouled again and made both shots for the final points.

For Utah, it was their lowest scoring output since a 34-32 win over New Mexico in 1976. It was Saint Mary's lowest point total since a 19-17 loss to Nevada-Reno the same season. However, both games were the result of "stall-ball" back when teams could hold the ball without a shot clock.

Both teams finished with 20 turnovers apiece and Utah shot 37 percent from the field compared to the Gaels' 27.7 percent and 11.8 percent from 3-point range.

The Utes have a few days to get ready for their Mountain West Conference opener Saturday afternoon against UNLV.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com