March 8, 2003
By DOUG ALDEN
AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY - Trace Caton scored a career-high 20 points in hisfinal home game and fellow senior Britton Johnsen scored 17 as Utah beatWyoming 86-70 Saturday, clinching the No. 1 seed in the Mountain WestConference tournament.
The Utes (23-6, 11-3), who had lost two of their last three, won at least ashare of their eighth conference title in nine years. Brigham Young could havetied Utah's league record with a win over Colorado State later Saturday, butthe Utes swept the Cougars in the regular season and hold the tiebreaker forthe MWC No. 1 seed.
Nick Jacobson scored 14 and Marc Jackson had 11 points for Utah, which went15-1 at home this season.
Johnsen, Caton and senior classmate Cameron Koford, who scored eightSaturday, all received standing ovations when they were pulled late in thegame. They are the only seniors on the Ute roster.
Caton had only reached double figures one other time this season, scoring 15in a win over Northern Iowa, and had never topped the 19 points he scored in agame early in his freshman season. With a little more than three minutes leftand the Utes up 77-65, he pulled up for a 3-pointer and hit it to reach 20points.
Caton was 7-for-11 and made 5-of-6 3-pointers.
He and Johnsen were the first two Utes to start cutting down the net as "WeAre the Champions" blared through the Huntsman Center. The last strand wassaved for coach Rick Majerus, who was greeted with a loud cheer when he cameout of the tunnel and finish the celebration.
The Utes tied their season high for points by going 28-for-53 from the floor
Wyoming used an 11-2 run to cut Utah's lead to 31-26, but the Utes regroupedand outscored the Cowboys 15-6 the rest of the half. Johnsen closed the halfwith five straight points, leaping through the Cowboys for a two-handed dunkand following it with a three-point play that put the Utes up 46-32 athalftime.
Wyoming got the lead down to 10 three times in the second half, but couldn'tget any closer. After Richardson cut it to 73-63, Jackson made four straightfree throws to put the Utes back up by 14. Richardson added another field goal,but Caton hit his final 3-pointer and the Utes coasted the rest of the way.