Facebook Twitter

Utes collapse down stretch at UNLV

SHARE Utes collapse down stretch at UNLV
UNLV's Louis Amundson tries to block a shot by Utah's Jonas Langvad on Wednesday night.

UNLV’s Louis Amundson tries to block a shot by Utah’s Jonas Langvad on Wednesday night.

Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — With 10 minutes left in the game, Utah had to call its fifth and final timeout. It was the Utes' fourth during a four-minute stretch when UNLV was flustering the Utes and they had to call it because Johnnie Bryant had just fallen on his behind in backcourt with no one around him.

That's the kind of night it was for the Utes.

A 17-0 run in the middle of the second half proved too much for the Utes to overcome as they lost 65-58 Wednesday before 9,459 at the Thomas and Mack Center.

The Utes fought hard most of the night, but turnovers — the season-long bugaboo — hurt them again as they turned the ball over 19 times, 13 in the second half.

With the loss, the Utes dropped to 12-13 on the season and 5-9 in MWC play, while the Rebels improved to 15-10 and 9-4.

The Utes had no answer for UNLV forward Louis Amundson, who coach Ray Giacoletti calls the "most improved player" in the MWC. Amundson finished with a game-high 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

"He's a horse down there," Giacoletti said. "We tried to front him, had four different people guard him and were doubling him at the end."

Amundson aside, Utah turnovers were the difference in the ballgame.

After getting just six in the first half when they took a four-point lead, the Utes became a turnover machine in the second half. During that horrendous scoreless seven-minute stretch, the Utes turned the ball over eight times as the Rebels turned a three-point deficit into a 14-point lead.

"That's the game right there," Giacoletti said. "They crawled right up into us and we couldn't handle the pressure. Vegas did a good job of turning the pressure up."

The Utes were leading 33-30 when the Rebels suddenly turned up the defensive pressure and threatened to turn the close game into a runaway.

Utah made a spirited comeback in the final minutes, but the deficit was too large.

Bryant hit two 3-pointers to pull the Utes within four at 54-50 with 2:53 left. At 55-50, the Utes could have cut the margin even further, but Bryant missed a 15-footer and after Utah snagged the rebound, Green threw a pass away.

Utah played well in the first half, getting the ball inside to Nevill, who had 10 first-half points and playing aggressive defense. Amundson was the only Rebel to have much success, but it took him 11 shots to score 11 points.

The Utes jumped out to a 4-0 lead and kept the lead through most of the first half. UNLV led briefly at 14-12 on a 3-pointer by Utah native Joe Darger, but Utah ran off nine straight points as Nevill and Bryant each hit a couple of baskets.

Utah's lead stretched to nine at 25-16 after a drive by Jonas Langvad, but the Rebels scored seven straight and threatened to take the lead.

However twice in the final minute, Rebel reserve guard Ricky Morgan stepped out of bounds twice and the Utes took a 27-23 halftime lead when Casey Iverson fed Chris Jackson inside for a basket.

The Utes shot 52 percent from the field in the first half, while the Rebels only managed 37.5 percent. Utah also outboarded UNLV 27 to 23 in the opening half.

Bryant led the Utes with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Luke Nevill contributed 12 points and seven boards. Curtis Terry joined Amundson in double figures for the Rebels.

The Utes get their Saturday bye this week and won't play again until Wednesday in Fort Worth against TCU. The final regular-season game will be March 4 against Wyoming at the Huntsman Center.

"We didn't quit and will continue to fight," Giacoletti said.

GAME NOTES: Utah won the rebounding battle 32 to 21 and shot 52.4 percent from the field, compared to 44.4 percent for UNLV . . . Shaun Green and Langvad both fouled out, trying to guard Amundson. Langvad finished with nine points, three assists and three rebounds . . . Tim Drisdom had a dismal night, finishing with five turnovers and three fouls in 13 minutes . . . Utah leads overall series (18-15). In Las Vegas, UNLV leads 10-6 in Las Vegas . . . UNLV won earlier meeting in Salt Lake 71-59 . . . Before Wednesday, the Utes had won eight of the 10 previous meetings with UNLV and three games last year, including a 57-53 victory in Las Vegas. The Rebels had lost two straight games before winning at Colorado State Saturday afternoon.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com