Jan. 22, 2000
By TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Between the gritty play of Alex Jensen and thesmothering defense that Utah coach Rick Majerus loves to see, the Utes showedthey don't have to shoot well to win.
Jensen had 19 points and 14 rebounds as No. 22 Utah survived its worstshooting game of the season to beat scrappy Wyoming 69-61 on Saturday.
The Utes shot 39 percent (23-of-59) but the defense produced an answer toevery threat by the resilient Cowboys (11-8, 1-3), who lost for the fourth timein their last five games.
"This game was a lesson that you don't have to shoot well to win," Jensensaid. "We relied on our defense instead of a bunch of 3s."
Hanno Mottola was held to seven points but his basket with 3:10 to play andhis three-point play with 2:17 remaining helped the Utes (14-3, 3-0 MountainWest) extend the nation's longest homecourt winning streak to 46 games.
"Mottola wasn't a factor until the last few minutes," Wyoming coach SteveMcClain said. "Then he steps up and does what an All-American is supposed todo. He wins the game."
It also was Utah's 31st straight victory at home in league games, includingplay in the old Western Athletic Conference.
Nate Althoff scored 13 points and Jeremy Killion had 14 for Utah, whichplayed Wyoming for the first time since February 1998 because of the convolutedschedule in the old 16-team WAC.
LeDarion Jones led the Cowboys with 19 points and Bailey added 12.
Utah led 37-32 at halftime and the Cowboys rallied three times from at leastfive points down in the second half.
But Wyoming couldn't score when it counted most. After the Cowboys pulledwithin 63-61 on a basket by Marcus Bailey with 2:46 to play, they didn't scoreagain.
"When both teams play that hard, neither team will get all the bounces,"Killion said. "But we were the ones to make the big plays in the last twominutes."
One week ago, the Utes won at BYU by holding the Cougars scoreless over thefinal seven minutes.
"Both teams defended very well tonight," Majerus said. "It was a veryhard-fought game. I like hustle plays and our guys always hustled. I just wishwe had played smarter tonight."
Jensen came up with some huge plays, including his block of ChrisMcMillian's layup with 1:19 on the clock and the Utes leading 66-61.
"From the moment I came here, I've looked to Alex and tried to emulate hisexample," guard Tony Harvey said. "I can't tell you how many times he makes aplay at the exact moment we need it."
Jensen also drew cheers on a steal while falling with 7:47 to play, ignitinga fastbreak that Jeff Johnsen capped with a 3-point play for a 58-52 lead.
"Al is playing like a senior," Majerus said. "He played hard. His defensewas excellent and his leadership was too. He did a wonderful job."
Killion's 3-pointer with 4:12 remaining gave Utah a 61-54 lead. Again, theCowboys came back as McMillian hit two free throws and Jones capped a 3-pointplay to make it 61-59 with 3:25 left.
That's when Mottola, tentative after getting two fouls in the game's firstthree minutes, got involved. He hit an eight-foot turnaround and took a feedfrom Jensen for a layup and, after being fouled, a free throw.
Although Mottola struggled, Majerus praised him for being ready at the end.
"We were out of sync early without Hanno and then it was clear he waspressing a little bit," Majerus said.
Utah seemed ready to blow the game open early in the second half, afterHarvey's two free throws gave the Utes a 48-42 lead. But Jones scored fourbaskets during an 8-2 run that tied it at 50 with 12:36 remaining.
Wyoming's starting shooting guard, Anthony Blakes, limped off the floormidway through the first half and didn't return. Team officials said may havebroken a toe in his left foot.