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ROCKHAMPTON, Australia - The University of Utah men's basketball team put an exclamation point on its trip Down Under Friday night with a compelling 85-80 victory over the defending NBL Champion Brisbane Bullets. The Runnin' Utes used a 37-point first quarter to break the game open and led by 15 at halftime, 58-43.
The first half was highlighted by a second-quarter alley-oop pass from Stephen Weigh to Luke Nevill, which pushed Utah's lead to 21 points. The Bullets would eventually cut the lead to three, midway through the fourth quarter. But solid defense from the Utes would not let Brisbane come any closer. Junior Lawrence Borha sunk two free throws for Utah with three seconds remaining in the contest to put the game on ice.
In what beacme a recurring theme throughout the six-game tour, it was Utah's two Australian-born players leading the way. Junior center Luke Nevill finished with 30 points and nine rebounds on 12-of-17 shooting from the field. Rockhampton native Stephen Weigh added 21 points, 14 of which came in the first quarter. Senior guard Johnnie Bryant also turned in a solid performance, tallying 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Utes have an early morning flight back to Salt Lake City Saturday. The team will arrive home Saturday afternoon, get some much-needed rest Sunday and start fall classes Monday.
- With a day off from basketball on Thursday, Coach Boylen decided to conduct a practice Friday morning to help prepare the team for the contest with Brisbane later that night.
- The Utes shot a blistering 58.3% in the first half of action. Stephen Weigh and Luke Nevill combined for 37 of the team's 58 points in the first half.
- After allowing the Bullets to shoot 51.5% from the field in the first half, the Utes clamped down on defense, holding Brisbane to 37.2% shooting the rest of the way.
- After the game, Stephen Weigh was named most valuable player, as determined by Neal Tweedy, coach of Wednesday night's opponent, the Rockhampton Rockets.
Quotes from Head Coach Jim Boylen
On defeating the defending NBL Champs:
"I was proud of my team. They were ready to play and made the most of the opportunity to play against a very good team. I was very pleased with our 37-point first quarter. But I was even more excited about our second-half defense, holding them under 40% shooting (37.2%)."
On big nights from Luke Nevill and Stephen Weigh:
"Since day one, we have challenged Luke to improve at the defensive end. I thought he impacted the game at both ends of the floor tonight and that is growth for him. I've challenged Stephen Weigh to be a complete player and I feel that he is making a conscious effort to become one. He was ready to play tonight and made the most of his opportunity with a 14-point first quarter.
On Shaun Green's play during the trip :
"Shaun has struggled to make shots on this trip, but he has done a lot of the little things he needs to do for us to be a winning team. Tonight, in the last two minutes, he blocked a shot, dove for a loose ball and drove the lane for a big basket. With him, I don't want it to be just about three-point shooting. I want him to be a complete player and do all the little things we need him to do."
On the trip as a whole:
"It has been exactly what I hoped it would be. The travel was tough, the games were tough. We had difficult situations to play in. But I felt we responded well to adversity and took some small steps in growing as a team. I have said all along that this was a business trip and I feel we did a good job taking care of our business. I'm thankful for this opportunity to change the culture of our team. Over the last 22 days, we have demanded a lot from this group of guys. From being early to the bus, to contact practices on game days, to extended video sessions and team meetings and the guys pulled through. Hopefully, this will be a springboard to improving as a team and building a top program."