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Utah Utes basketball: Kepkay keys Utes’ surge in second half

SHARE Utah Utes basketball: Kepkay keys Utes’ surge in second half

For much of Saturday afternoon's Utah-Weber State game, Tyler Kepkay was quiet, or as he put it later, "patient." But when the Utes' offense went stagnant and they blew a 14-point lead, the senior guard took action.

Kepkay keyed two Utah second-half bursts, which led the Utes to a 74-64 victory over the Wildcats before 8,704 at the Huntsman Center.

The win stopped a three-game losing skid as the Utes improved to 6-4 on the year, while the Wildcats saw their three-game winning streak halted as they fell to 5-5.

"We knew we had to win this game," Kepkay said. "We were pretty calm and collected and kept our composure."

Kepkay scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half, while Carlon Brown added 19 and Luke Nevill and Shaun Green had 12 points apiece.

Six minutes into the second half, the Utes had been outscored 20-4 and were trailing 49-45. Then Kepkay hit a 15-foot jumper, added a free throw and sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Utes up 51-49.

But the Wildcats came back with five straight points to regain the lead. After Brown and Nevill scored to give the Utes a 58-56 lead with 5:19 left and Nevill blocked a layup by Kellen McCoy, it was Kepkay time.

First, he sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key and, following a 3 by WSU's Kyle Bullinger, Kepkay answered with another trey from out front. Then he sank a pair of free throws and drove up the middle to make it 68-59 with 2:50 left, meaning that over a two-minute stretch, Kepkay scored 10 points

"He's done that for us this year — he's made big shots when we need it," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "We went to pick and rolls in the second half and Kepkay is very good at pick and rolls."

While Brown called Kepkay's shooting "crazy good," Kepkay downplayed it.

"It just happened that I was hitting shots at crucial times," he said. "That's the way it went tonight."

Weber State coach Randy Rahe, a former Ute assistant under Ray Giacoletti, was happy with his team's comeback, but disappointed in turnovers down the stretch.

"I thought we turned the ball over in some crucial times," he said. "You can't do that on the road against a team like this. They made the plays and we didn't."

Weber had balanced scoring, with Damian Lillard and Steve Panos each scoring 13 points and Kyle Bullinger and McCoy getting 12 apiece.

The game was close throughout much of the first half, until the Utes sank three straight 3-pointers — by Kepkay, Lawrence Borha and Green — to make it 41-27 late in the first half. For the game, the Utes finished with 9-of-20 from 3-point range after shooting just 26 percent over the last three games.

The Utes were outrebounded for the fourth straight game, 30-29, but Boylen was happy that the 6-foot-4 Brown came up with 10 boards for the Utes.

"The 19 points are great, but what I like are the 10 rebounds and (only) two turnovers and the guy plays 35 minutes," said Boylen. "The 10 rebounds from the wing position is as big a stat as there is on the stat sheet."

"I think me being aggressive and getting rebounds and layups really helped us a lot," Brown said.

Next up for Utah is a game in Logan on Monday night against Utah State, while Weber State goes to Mississippi for a pair of games against Texas-Pan American and Southern Mississippi.

GAME NOTES: At halftime, the Ute football team was introduced to a standing ovation. Coach Kyle Whittingham, quarterback Brian Johnson and the five starting offensive linemen each briefly spoke.... This was the eighth straight victory in the series for Utah over Weber State.... Green came up with five steals for the Utes.... Freshman Jace Tavita started for the third-straight game in place of the suspended Luka Drca and had four assists, but no points.... Freshman Jordan Cyphers didn't play for the first time all season.

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