March 14, 2009
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Luke Nevill had 23 points and 15 rebounds in another dominant low-post performance, and Utah rolled into the Mountain West Conference tournament title game with a 68-55 victory over Wyoming on Friday night.
Carlon Brown scored 13 points for the second-seeded Utes (23-9), who will face fourth-seeded San Diego State in Saturday's championship game after easily holding off the Cowboys for their 10th victory in 12 games.
After foul trouble limited Nevill's minutes in Utah's quarterfinal win over TCU, the Utes leaned squarely on their 7-foot-2 Australian center against Wyoming. The Mountain West's player of the year got the ball down low on most possessions in the second half, methodically scoring 12 points and passing out of double-teams by the smaller Cowboys (19-13).
Brandon Ewing scored 13 points and Sean Ogirri had 12 for Wyoming. Both guards played all 40 minutes for the Cowboys, whose 19 wins are the school's most since 2003. Wyoming upset third-seeded New Mexico to reach the semifinals, but had no answer to Nevill's height and skill.
Utah, which won its only Mountain West tournament title in 2004, is almost certainly headed back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.
The Utes blew a two-game lead with three to play in the regular season, allowing BYU and New Mexico to share the Mountain West title. But coach Jim Boylen's better-than-expected second season includes the Utes' first trip to the conference tournament title game since 2005.
Utah beat TCU one day earlier on a last-second 3-pointer by Lawrence Borha, but no such drama was required against Wyoming. Utah jumped out to an early 18-6 lead, although Wyoming stayed in it with most of its points coming from Ogirri and Ewing.
Tyson Johnson and A.J. Davis led a 10-2 run by Wyoming in the second half to trim Utah's lead to 48-43. Nevill then scored five consecutive points for the Utes before drawing the defense to leave Luka Drca open for a 3-pointer with 7:59 to play, and Utah's lead never dipped below nine points.