Thursday, November 28, 2013

Utah vs. Ball State Game Recap: Delon Wright is a Basketball Player

Delon Wright is an excellent basketball player.  He is smart on and off the ball, he is efficient, he involves his teammates, and he has worked hard to develop his skills and athleticism. He played an incredible game against the Cardinals:  38 minutes, 23 points on 11 shots (wow!), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 5 steals, and only one turnover.  I don't like to single out individual players.  But Delon Wright dominated that game.  He made his teammates better.  Utah was the better team and Delon Wright was a big reason why.  

I liked Utah's offensive performance.  Almost half of Utah's points came in the paint.  Utah outscored BSU 18-2 in fast break points (20% of its offense off the fast break).  And the Utes shot 32 for 57 (56.1% overall).  Utah's offense works off its best players.  It starts with Delon Wright.  But the Utes also got good offensive contributions from Brandon Taylor and Princeton Onwas.  And Tucker and Bachynski gave Utah excellent efforts off the bench.  And while Jordan Loveridge did not have his best game shooting the ball, he still contributed 4 assists and rebounded the ball well.  His presence, as always, opened up lanes for his teammates to drive and score or drive and pass.

Utah went through a few tough minutes to open the second half where it took some bad shots and got caught playing too much one-on-one basketball.  And we still need to see an improvement at the free throw line and in post play.  But overall, Utah is right on schedule offensively.

Utah also played solid man-to-man defense.  The Runnin' Utes only gave up two fast break points.  One thing I always preached is that good defense starts with balance on offense. If you take good shots and spread the floor, then you will be in a good position to get back on defense.  And Coach Krystko does an excellent job of coaching that vital (and often underrated) principle.  Brandon Taylor did an excellent job on Ball State's excellent young point guard.  And Renan Lens did a nice job helping out his teammates.  His four blocks all came off solid help side defense. 

The Utes continue to struggle on close outs.  Two or three times players got caught jumping up instead of closing out on the outside shot.  And Utah almost let Ball State back in the game midway through the second half when it fouled on consecutive three point shots.

Coach Krystko is doing an excellent job in playing to his team's strengths.  Utah has an array of long and athletic guards and forwards.  And the offense is designed to accentuate those strengths.  I believe that a strong offense relies on strong post play.  This was likely more true in my day when there was no three point line and no shot clock.  But I would still love to see the Utes continue to work through the post inside out and side to side.  Renan Lens and Dallin Bachynski are coming along well.  Renan did a great job pulling his man outside and hitting some shots.  And Dallin put himself in excellent position to receive on the drive and dish.  I think Kovacevic will really help Utah with its depth in the post when he comes back off of his injury. 

So a tip of the milk jug to Coach Krystko and the Utes.  They are playing excellent basketball and the rebuild is, in my estimation, ahead of schedule.  Ball State is a good team and Utah beat the Cardinals from start to finish.  Now let's see how they play on the road against a solid Boise State team. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Card Collection

These are some highlights of my basketball card collection. What do each of these players have in common? That's right: they're former Utah greats, to a man.

Click images to enlarge.

Jerry Chambers
1971-72 Topps #13
Jerry was drafted seventh overall by the LA Lakers in the 1966 NBA draft. He spent six seasons between the NBA and the ABA, averaging 8.3ppg and 3.2rpg for his career. His best season was with the San Diego Conquistadors in 1972-73, when he averaged 11.9ppg and 4.4rpg.

Merv Jackson
1972-73 Topps #233
Merv was a key part of the 1970-71 Utah Stars team that won the ABA Championship. That season he averaged 13.9ppg. He was an ABA All-Star during then 1968-69 season, when he averaged 15.7p/4.2r/3.3a per game.

Ticky Burden
1976-77 Topps #51
Luther "Ticky" Burden made a name for himself during the 1974 FIBA World Championships by scoring 20.2 ppg and leading the U.S. to a bronze medal. He then went on to average 19.9 ppg as a rookie with the Virginia Squires of the ABA. However, he could never seem to get along with his coaches and spent just a hair over two seasons in the pros.

Mike Sojourner
1976-77 Topps #79
Mike was the tenth pick of the 1974 NBA draft and spent three seasons in the pros--all with the Atlanta Hawks. His averaged 11.7p/8.8r as a rookie, and 8.7p/6.5r for his career.

Mike Newlin
1977-78 Topps #37
Mike spent eleven years in the NBA--eight of which with the Houston Rockets. He was a solid scorer, averaging 14.9ppg for his career. He was regularly one of the top free throw shooters in the league (with an .887 career FT%). Toward the end of his career, as his minutes and production with the Rockets declined, he got a fresh start with the New Jersey Nets. There he averaged 21.16p/3.9a in two seasons and once scored 52 points against the Boston Celtics.

Jeff Judkins
1980-81 Topps #19
Juddy played with four teams during his five-year NBA career. His longest stay was with the Boston Celtics, where he averaged 7.26ppg. He spent a season with the Utah Jazz in 1981-81, where he shot .882 from the free throw line.

Pace Mannion
1984-85 Star #232
Pace enjoyed a six-year NBA career and played for six different teams. His finest season was in 1985-86 when he averaged 4.5ppg as a backup with the Utah Jazz. In 1987-88, he was a teammate of Larry Krystkowiak on the Milwaukee Bucks.

Danny Vranes
1985-86 Star #71
Danny was the fifth pick of the 1981 NBA draft. Most of his seven-year NBA career was spent with the Seattle Supersonics, where he averaged 6.0p/4.4r per game. But he was best known for his defense; in 1984-85, he was named to the NBA's All-Defense second team.

Tom Chambers
1986-87 Fleer #15
Tom was drafted eighth overall by the San Diego Clippers in the 1981 NBA Draft. He spent 17 years in the NBA and was a four-time All-Star, including the 1987 All-Star Game MVP. In 1988, he signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free agent and averaged 26.5p/7.7r in his first two seasons there. During that time, he once scored 60 points against the Supersonics. In 1993, he helped the Suns win the Western Conference Title. By the time he retired in 1997, he had accrued over 20,000 points (a career average of 18.1ppg). Two years later, the Suns retired the #24 in his honor.

Kelvin Upshaw
1989-90 Hoops #264
Kelvin went undrafted but ended up as a solid role player during his three-year NBA career. In 26 games with the Boston Celtics in 1988-89, he averaged 7.0p/4.2a per game. For his career, he averaged 5.4p/2.1a.

More to come . . .

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Utah vs. Ball State

Our opponent this week is Ball State from the Mid-American Conference. It's the first of a three-game series: to be played again in Salt Lake next year and in Muncie in 2015. Ball State is a respectable basketball school and will clearly be the best team we've faced so far this season. Here are five things you should know about the Cardinals:

1. They currently hold a 2-2 record. Both losses came against quality in-state rivals: Indiana State and Butler. The Butler game, in particular, ended in dramatic fashion when Ball State missed a contested layup in the final seconds of a 59-58 game.

2. Ball State is led by first-year coach James Whitford. He was an assistant at Xavier under Sean Miller and followed him to Tucson when he was hired at Arizona. So he's been part of Miller's successes for nearly a decade and is very familiar with the Runnin' Utes.

3. The Cardinals play several seniors including Jesse Berry (14.5ppg) and Chris Bond (12.3ppg). Their starting center is Majok Majok (pron. muh-ZHUK muh-ZHUK), a juco transfer from a year ago who was picked West Division Pre-Season All-MAC. Majok led Ball State with 15p/11r against Butler (he avgs. 10.0p/10.5r on the season).

4. Freshman PG Zavier Turner has been a major addition for the Cardinals. He leads the team with 15.3ppg/4.3apg and so far looks to be the MAC freshman of the year.

5. The Utes and Cardinals share some history. The last time Utah played Ball State was at the Huntsman Center in the 1992 NIT tournament. The Utes won, 72-57. Utah was coached by Rick Majerus and Ball State was coached by Dick Hunsaker (former Majerus assistant and current coach of Utah Valley). Of course, Majerus coached Ball State from 1987-89. In 1990, Hunsaker led Ball State to the Sweet Sixteen by beating Oregon State and Louisville in the Huntsman Center.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weekly Pac-12 Rankings

1 Arizona (5-0) | Last week: #1: Probable meeting against Duke this week.
2 Oregon (4-0) | Last week: #2: The Ducks keep making me nervous by letting opponents hang around until halftime (avg. halftime lead: 3.5) before blowing them out in the second half (avg. margin of victory: 16).
3 Arizona State (5-0) | Last week: #3: Two very solid wins last week (@ UNLV and vs. Bradley). But the road only gets tougher this week (Marquette and Creighton).
4 UCLA (5-0) | Last week: #4: Competition gets a little better for the Bruins this week. December will be tough.
5 Cal (4-0) | Last week: #5: Huge opportunity to move up this week at the Maui Invitational.
6 Oregon State (2-1) | Last week: #6: Took the week off.
7 Utah (5-0) | Last week: #7: Competition will get a little better this week against Ball State.
8 Stanford (4-1) | Last week: #8: Almost stumbled at Denver.
9 Colorado (6-1) | Last week: #9: Appeared to improve game-by-game last week, but still needed to rally at home against Harvard.
10 Southern Cal (4-1) | Last week: #11: The Trojan's starting five looks settled, but depth will suffer until J.T. Terrell is back.
11 Washington State (2-2) | Last week: #10: Had two chances for quality wins last week (@ Gonzaga, vs. TCU), but lost both.
12 Washington (2-3) | Last week: #12: The Huskies were in over their heads at the 2K Sports Classic.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week 4 TV Schedule

UPDATED: 11/30 5:30p

Salt Lake
Nov. 25th1:00California vs. ArkansasESPN2669 (HD)144
Nov. 25th7:00Marquette at Arizona StateFoxSports1691 (HD)150
Nov. 25th7:30Stanford vs. HoustonESPN2669 (HD)144
Nov. 26th5:00California vs. SyracuseESPN668 (HD)140
Nov. 26th7:00Montana at WashingtonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 26th7:30Stanford vs. PittsburghESPNU755 (HD)141
Nov. 26th9:00SIU-Edwardsville at Oregon StatePac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 27th5:00Arizona vs. DrexelESPNU755 (HD)141
Nov. 27th5:30California vs. DaytonESPN2669 (HD)144
Nov. 27th8:00Ball State at UtahPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 28th11:00aUSC vs. VillanovaAXS TV
Nov. 28th12:00Washington State vs. ButlerESPN2669 (HD)144
Nov. 28th5:30UCLA vs. Nevada

Nov. 28th9:00Arizona State vs. CreightonESPN2669 (HD)144
Nov. 29th9:00aWashington State vs. PurdueESPNU755 (HD)141
Nov. 29th1:00Pacific at OregonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 29th1:30USC vs. Wake ForestAXS TV
Nov. 29th4:00Arizona vs. DukeESPN668 (HD)140
Nov. 29th9:30UCLA vs. NorthwesternESPN2669 (HD)144
Nov. 29th10:00Arizona State vs. CharlestonESPNU755 (HD)141
Nov. 30th11:00aUSC vs. XavierAXS TV
Nov. 30th2:00Colorado at Air Force

Nov. 30th4:30Long Beach State at WashingtonPac-12 WA
Nov. 30th4:30North Dakota at OregonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 1st10:00aWashington State vs. St. Joseph'sESPNU755 (HD)141
Dec. 1st12:00Arizona State vs. Miami (FL)ESPNU755 (HD)141
Dec. 1st2:00Oregon State at DePaulFoxSports1691 (HD)150
Dec. 1st6:00South Dakota State at StanfordPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 1st8:00Cal Poly at OregonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Afternoon Links

Keeping you up to date with Utah's future opponents and news from around the league:

 Lamar defeated Savannah State last night in the tournament opener, 75-66.

 Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Jahii Carson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Gordon were named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List.

 Arizona is getting solid contributions from its backups.

 Season updates on Oregon and Oregon State.

 Interesting bio on Cal freshman Jabari Bird.

 Washington's struggles this year have a lot to do with rebounding.

 Is an instate basketball tournament in the works?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Utah Classic

The Utah Classic is something we started back in 1968. We'd invite three teams from across the country to play a two-round tournament. It was just another chance to lure some big-name teams to town and treat our fans to a good old fashioned hoops tourney. We managed to bring in some respectable schools and always hoped we'd be playing the headliner for the title.

The most memorable was in 1969. We hosted San Francisco, Bradley and Michigan State; the Dons were our first-round opponent. We were sluggish but played well enough to win.  At one point early in the first half, I had to sit Mike Newlin down for a while to make him refocus.

The win put us against Ralph Simpson and the Spartans for the tournament championship. It was a back-and-forth affair for most of the first half.  But then we really put it together. We ended the half on a 19-0 run and cruised in the second half for a big win. How about that?! Simpson ended the game with 32 points, though it wasn't enough to counter our solid shooting.  I remember we cleared the bench that game.

(It so happens we hosted the Michigan Wolverines two nights later. It wasn't part of the Utah Classic -- just another non-conference game. Rudy Tomjanovich and Mike Newlin played out of their minds. Rudy T. finished with 42 pts/11 rebs; but we were the victors behind Newlin's 32 pt/17 reb performance).

The Utah Classic was discontinued after the 1988-89 season so Utah could go play in other preseason events across the country. But Utah has started hosting tournaments again, albeit in a round-robin format. This year it's the Global Sports Hoops Showcase. Past tournament champions include:

Global Sports Hoops Showcase
Season Tournament Champion Host School
2010-11 Samford Auburn
2011-12 Oregon Oregon
2012-13 Wyoming Wyoming

So there you have it. Let's go win us a trophy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Global Sports Hoops Showcase

This week Utah will host the Global Sports Hoops Showcase tournament (not to be confused with the Global Sports Shootout, the Global Sports Challenge, the Global Sports Invitational, the Global Sports Main Event or the Global Sports Hardwood Challenge).

It's a four-team field, and each will play three games in three days. This is a big change from the rest of Utah's November schedule, which generally calls for one game per week. None of our opponents appear to pose any threat, although each comes along with some interesting aspects. Here's what I know:

Grand Canyon [NASDAQ: LOPE] is a publicly-traded Christian university, and the only for-profit school to play NCAA Division I basketball. They are coached by former NBAer and noted Jazz-killer, Dan Majerle. They are brand new to the WAC, where the coaches expect them to finish in 8th place (out of 9 teams). Senior guard Demetrius Walker was picked second team all-WAC in the preseason poll. Also be sure to watch Killian Larson, who went 18p/9r against Loyola-Marymount and 14p/15r against San Diego. GCU stocks have performed very well over the last six months with a current P/E of 26 and institutional ownership steady at 111%. But we should expect shares to open on Friday morning at least .5% lower than Thursday's close, due to the thrashing the Lopes will receive from the Utes Thursday night.

Lamar: The Cardinals are coached by Pat Knight, whose past achievements include coaching Texas Tech to the NIT Quarterfinals, leading Lamar to the NCAA tournament two years ago, and being Bobby's son. On the court, Lamar is led by Nimrod Hilliard (16.0p/4.7r), Donovan Ross (15.7p/4.3r) and Amos Wilson (preseason all-Southland third team). The Cardinals are winless on the year but have faced some pretty stiff competition including Washington State, who beat them by twenty last week. The Southland conference coaches picked Lamar to finish 10th in the league (out of 12 teams).

Savannah State: The Tigers were picked to finish 6th (out of 13 teams) in the Mid-Eastern Conference. They lost their top three scorers from last year and will look to Deven Williams (9.7p) to pick up the slack. Jyles Smith (8.7p/7.0r season) has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers over the last two games (15p.0/11.5r last two).

Monday, November 18, 2013

Weekly Pac-12 Rankings

The following rankings are based solely on what has transpired so far this season. I give no credit for any pre-season analysis or projections. Rather, I simply look at the way the teams perform, taking into account their varied levels of competition.

1 Arizona (3-0) | Last week: N/A: All the hype in Tucson has come true so far. 
2 Oregon (2-0) | Last week: N/A: Season opening win against Georgetown was great for the conference. The Ducks look surprisingly sluggish at times, but always get the job done in the end.
3 Arizona State (3-0) | Last week: N/A: The Sun Devils look scary-good through three easy games. An important test against a struggling UNLV in Vegas this week.
4 UCLA (2-0) | Last week: N/A: Despite a close call against Drexel, the Bruins should have no problem with their next several opponents.
5 Cal (3-0) | Last week: N/A: Ditto: despite a close call against Oakland, Cal should cruise for the next couple weeks. And Jabari Bird is clearly one of the Pac-12's top freshmen so far.
6 Oregon State (2-1) | Last week: N/A: What a difference Collier makes! The Beavers looked unbelievable in the big win at Maryland on Sunday.
7 Utah (2-0) | Last week: N/A: Utah is picking up right where they left off last season, which is a great thing.
8 Stanford (3-1) | Last week: N/A: Quality win against Northwestern, but haven't looked impressive otherwise so far through its difficult non-conference slate.
9 Colorado (3-1) | Last week: N/A: Clearly outmatched against Baylor and had a difficult time putting Wyoming away.
10 Washington State (2-0) | Last week: N/A: This week presents a chance to avenge last year's narrow loss to Gonzaga. We'll learn a lot about the Cougars then.
11 Southern Cal (2-1) | Last week: N/A: You can't fault the Trojans for losing in Logan -- that's always a tough place to win. But then they came home and nearly lost to Northern Arizona.
12 Washington (2-1) | Last week: N/A: Bad loss to UC Irvine and needed a second half rally just to beat Eastern Washington.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week 3 TV Schedule

Salt Lake
Nov. 18th7:00Arkansas State at ColoradoPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 18th9:00Farleigh Dickenson at ArizonaESPNU755 (HD)141
Nov. 18th9:00Southern Utah at CaliforniaPac-12 BA5454
Nov. 18th9:00Sacramento State at UCLAPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 19th7:00Utah Valley at OregonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 19th8:00Arizona State at UNLVCBSSN753 (HD)158
Nov. 19th9:00Rhode Island at ArizonaESPNU755 (HD)141
Nov. 19th9:00Cal State-Fullerton at USCPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 21st6:00UC Santa Barbara at ColoradoPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 21st7:00Washington vs. IndianaESPN2669 (HD)144
Nov. 21st7:00Washington State at GonzagaRoot Sports693 (HD)414
Nov. 21st7:30Grand Canyon at Utah

Nov. 21st8:00Texas Southern at StanfordPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 21st8:00West Alabama at USCPac-12 LA
Nov. 22nd3:00Washington vs. Boston CollegeESPNU755 (HD)141
Nov. 22nd7:00Lamar at UtahPac-12 MT757 (HD)5456
Nov. 22nd7:00Bradley at Arizona StatePac-12 Net413 (SD)413
Nov. 22nd9:00Morehead State at UCLAPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 23rd5:00Savannah State at UtahPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 24th2:30Harvard at ColoradoESPNU755 (HD)141
Nov. 24th4:00TCU at Washington StatePac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 24th6:00San Francisco at OregonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Nov. 24th8:00Chattanooga at UCLAPac-12 Net757 (HD)413

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Afternoon Links

Tonight's game has a late start. So here are a few afternoon links to kill the extra time between now and tip-off.

 Terrific look at the latest in Pac-12 hoops by the Arizona Republic.

 J.T. Terrell is back in the starting lineup for the Trojans. But keep a close eye on USC freshman Roschon Prince who played well on Tuesday. Prince was the 2013 Gatorade High School Player of the Year for California and the prize of the Trojan's stellar recruiting class.

 Aaron Gordon deserves to be mentioned among the country's other top freshman, like Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.

 This season is the swan song for Ball State's big recruiting class of 2010.

Plus a few recaps from last night's action:

 Arizona 69, San Diego State 60
 Stanford 71, Northwestern 58
 UC Irvine 86, Washington 72

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Utah vs. UC Davis Aggies

Corey Hawkins
The Aggies of UC Davis come to town on Friday. They hail from the Big West Conference and are coached by former NBAer Jim Les. The preseason conference media poll picked them to finish fifth in the league.

The media poll also named junior guard Corey Hawkins to the preseason all-conference team. Corey is the son of another former NBAer, Hersey Hawkins, and was recently listed as one of the Top-100 players in the nation by CBS Sports (see no. 80). He had 16 pts/8 rebs/7 asts against Portland in the season opener. Unfortunately, he injured his hand and did not play on Monday against Holy Names College. I have no word as to whether he'll play against the Utes on Friday.

It would be a real shame for the Aggies to suffer another loss to injury. They already lost one of their key players from last year, J.T. Adenrele, to a knee injury during the offseason. They'll greatly miss the 12.6 ppg/5.9 rpg/2 bpg they got from Adenrele a year ago.

But aside from Hawkins, they're counting on points from Josh Richart (17 ppg so far this season) and Ryan Sempkens (25 pts against Holy Names). Sempkens is an outside threat; 75% of his shot attempts last year came from beyond the arc (.461 3FG% in 2012-13).

+ + +

Utah announced the addition of three basketball signees for the 2014-15 season. They are:

Brekkott Chapman 
F6'8"200Roy H.S. (Roy, UT)
Kyle Kuzma
 SF 6'9"190Rise Academy (Philadelphia, PA)
Isaiah Wright
PG6'2"180Borah H.S. (Boise, ID)

Kuzma already enrolled and is currently on the team as a redshirt. More details at

Read the official announcement here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pac-12 Newcomers

After watching Pac-12 basketball all weekend, I've come to the conclusion this league has a lot of newcomers.  The following is a list of brand-new guys who made big contributions over the weekend. So keep your eye on 'em:

Arizona (2-0)
Aaron Gordon - (F) 6'9" 225 Freshman
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - (F) 6'7" 215 Freshman
TJ McConnell - (G) 6'1" 195 Transfer (Duquesne)

Arizona State (1-0)
Jermaine Marshall - (G) 6'4" 215 Transfer (Penn State)
Shaquielle McKissic - (F) 6'5" 200 Transfer (Edmonds C.C.)

Cal (1-0)
Jabari Bird - (G) 6'6" 190 Freshman
Jordan Matthews - (G) 6'4" 200 Freshman

Colorado (0-1)
Wesley Gordon - (F) 6'9" 225 Freshman
Jaron Hopkins - (G) 6'5" 190 Freshman
Dustin Thomas - (F) 6'7" 220 Freshman

Oregon (1-0)
Richard Amardi - (F) 6'8" 225 Transfer (Indian Hills C.C.)
Jason Calliste - (G) 6'2" 170 Transfer (Detroit)
Mike Moser - (F) 6'8" 210 Transfer (UNLV)
Joseph Young - (G) 6'2" 185 Transfer (Houston)

Oregon State (0-1)

Southern Cal (1-0)
Pe'Shon Howard - (G) 6'3" 190 Transfer (Maryland)
Julian Jacobs - (G) 6'3" 180 Freshman

Stanford (1-1)

UCLA (1-0)
Bryce Alford - (G) 6'3" 180 Freshman
Zach LaVine - (G) 6'5" 180 Freshman

Utah (1-0)
Ahmad Fields - (G) 6'5" 195 Freshman
Parker Van Dyke - (G) 6'3" 185 Freshman
Delon Wright - (G) 6'5" 180 Transfer (City College of San Francisco)

Washington (1-0)
Mike Anderson - (G) 6'4" 195 Transfer (Moberly Area C.C.)
Darin Johnson - (G) 6'5" 200 Freshman
Nigel Williams-Goss - (G) 6'3" 185 Freshman

Washington State (1-0)
Ike Iroegbu - (G) 6'2" 190 Freshman

Stanford and Oregon State were the only teams that didn't get a significant contribution from a new player (although the Beavers are playing several guys who saw limited minutes last year).

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Utah-New Mexico Rivalry

Now this was a rivalry.

Thinking back on our series against the Lobos, I recall one tough game after another. Often one of the teams -- if not both -- were exceptionally good. Even ranked. But that never seemed to matter. Wins in this series always came the hard way.

I have fond memories of playing these guys in the 'ol Fieldhouse. In particular were a couple times in the late-1960s when Bob King brought some top-10 Lobo teams to town. In 1967, we staged a big comeback from 11 points down to beat the #9 Lobos, 66-64. They had a guy named Mel Daniels who seemed to score at will and snag every other rebound. But it was Walt Simon's desperation running hook shot at the buzzer that earned the upset for us.

The next year was the fight. New Mexico was ranked #5 and played suffocating defense against us. Jeff Oktel got ejected for punching and Lyndon MacKay fouled out seconds later. It looked grim. The crowd was rowdy. Fans were throwing ice and debris onto the court. So I called Don Denson and Ron Cummingham in off the bench and they led the comeback. Both of them hit big shots down the stretch when the outcome was still in doubt. Merv the Magician was huge as well -- finishing with 20 points. Final score: Utah 71, Lobos 64.

Playing in the Pit was another matter. My first game there we won by two; but that was the only win I would get there.

When UTEP joined the WAC in the late 1960s, the southwestern road swing to Albuquerque and El Paso became a regular feature of the conference schedule. One game was played on Thursday and the other on Saturday. The Pit -- and later the UTEP Special Event Center -- were two of the most intimidating environments in the west; so no one ever expected the Utes to come home with two wins. One out of two would have been acceptable. We got swept both times I coached it.

Utah didn't win a game on this trip until 1976. And they didn't win both games until 1980 when they had Tom Chambers, Danny Vranes and Karl Bankowski. The first stop that year was against UTEP. Danny Vranes forced overtime with a game-tieing dunk and Tom Chambers hit the winning layup with four seconds left in OT. Then to Albuquerque where Utah scored the last six points of the game to beat the Lobos by three.

The next year it was more of the same. Utah was 14-1 and ranked #15, but that didn't faze the opposition. They fought Don Haskins' Miners tooth and nail for a slim second-half lead before slowing down the tempo and forcing the Miners to foul. Utah hit its free throws and escaped with a hard fought 69-64 win. Two nights later in the Pit, the Lobos caused 24 Utah turnovers. Utah caught up midway through the second-half and it was a battle down the stretch into overtime. Danny Vranes took over in OT to finish with 24 points (including 12-12 FTs) and Tom Chambers added 23.

When Utah left the WAC, this tradition ended. In all, the Utes went 0-2 fourteen times, and split the trip eleven times.

In thirty years, Utah went 2-0 on the trip a grand total of five times.

Utah's greatest win against the Lobos came in the 1997 WAC Tournament.  Remember this?

The final years of the rivalry were as good as ever and involved some major heroics. Who could forget Andrew Bogut's 24pt/20reb performance in 2005 in the Pit? Or Lawrence Borha's baseline jumper with 11 ticks left to win in 2009? And, of course, 2011 when Chris Hines drilled the buzzer-beater to win our last trip in the Pit?

And lots of close calls. Simply review the series results over the last few seasons:

Albuquerque Utah 69 New Mexico 58
Salt Lake City New Mexico 65 14Utah 54
Denver New Mexico 60 Utah 56
Salt Lake City Utah 64 New Mexico 49
Albuquerque New Mexico 64 Utah 53
Albuquerque New Mexico 86 Utah 82 OT
Salt Lake City Utah 93 New Mexico 91 2OT
Albuquerque New Mexico 77 Utah 67 OT
Salt Lake City New Mexico 72 Utah 71
Las Vegas Utah 82 New Mexico 80 OT
Salt Lake City Utah 69 New Mexico 68
Albuquerque New Mexico 77 Utah 71
Albuquerque New Mexico 74 Utah 57
Salt Lake City 12New Mexico 68 Utah 65 OT
Salt Lake City Utah 82 New Mexico 72
Albuquerque Utah 62 New Mexico 60

We haven't played New Mexico since we left the MWC in 2011. We can all agree Utah is on to bigger and better things now. Still, I wouldn't mind it one bit if the Lobos happened to show up on our non-conference schedule sometime in the future.