Utah 66, Missouri St. 54

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Luke Nevill scored 18 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots as Utah beat Missouri State 66-54 in a defensive battle on Saturday.

Dale Lamberth scored 18 points and Devan Mitchell added 14 for the Bears, who rallied in the second half but could not overcome a 17-point deficit.

The Utes (6-3) led 37-20 at halftime by dominating inside and forcing 10 turnovers, but did not score for nearly five minutes to start the second half, allowing the Bears (5-3) to find a rhythm.

Missouri State soon cut the lead to 41-35 on a lay-up by Chris Cooks, and trailed 44-37 following a three-pointer by Utah's Tyler Kepkay and a putback by Mitchell. But the Bears failed to score on their next eight possessions -- a span of 7:17 -- until Shane Laurie hit a three-pointer with 4:14 remaining.

By then, the Utes led 52-40, and were able to escape.

The Utes made 12 straight free throws in the final 2:16 -- they made 17 of 18 overall -- including eight in a row by Kepkay, who finished with 16 points. The Utes also shot 48.9 percent, the best by any team against the Bears this season.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-12-15-07 1449MST

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