Utah sends Gonzaga to third straight loss
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—With two Gonzaga defenders draped on him, Utah’s Luke Nevill cradled the ball with all his might as the final horn sounded.
Nevill scored 15 points to help Utah beat No. 16 Gonzaga 66-65 on Wednesday night, sending the Bulldogs to their third straight loss for only the second time in the last eight years.
Trailing by one, Gonzaga had two chances to pull out the win in the final seconds when Matt Bouldin stole an inbounds pass. He missed a runner and Austin Daye couldn’t convert the rebound.
Nevill grabbed the rebound and secured the win as time expired.
“After those last two chances they had to score, I just crashed the boards and the ball happened to come my way. I told myself, I’m not letting this go no matter what. It was so great to see the refs signal the game was over while I just held on,” Nevill said.
Luke Drca had 14 points and seven assists and Lawrence Bohra added 11 points as Utah (8-6) won its third game out of its last four.
“It was so nerve-wracking at the end but the whole key to the game was our defense. We got off to such a good start and got into their heads a little bit which helped us hold on at the end,” Nevill said.
Jeremy Pargo and Steven Gray each scored 14 for the Bulldogs (8-4), who shot just 35 percent and dropped its third straight game for the just the second time in eight years.
“We need to toughen up in there and step up and make some shots, especially Josh (Heytvelt) and Austin (Daye). They are taking a lot of them, they’re just not making them,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
Heytvelt had 10 points and Daye scored 8 but they combined to shoot 8-of-29.
Utah led by as many as 11 points midway through the second half when Drca made a 3-pointer to cap an 8-2 run.
The Utes didn’t score again for a span of 3:42 while the Bulldogs scored 10 straight points—four field goals in the lane and two free throws. With 6:10 to play, Pargo’s driving hoop cut the Ute lead to 54-53, the closest margin since the score was 30-29 in the first half.
“They are a good team. You don’t want to play Gonzaga every night and they wore us down. We were mentally fatigued against their press at the end,” Utah coach Jim Boylen said.
The beginning of the game was a different story. The Bulldogs were idle for eight days since losing back-to-back games to Oklahoma and Portland State and they looked rusty. The Utes ran out to a 14-2 lead while the Bulldogs missed seven of their first eight shots and turned the ball over once.
“We were ready to go,” Boylen said of his team’s first victory over a ranked team in his two-season tenure. “For Utah to win a national game against a Top-25 opponent is what we’ve been striving for.”
Gonzaga trailed 36-32 at halftime, but the deficit could have been much larger had the Bulldogs not scored 16 points off Utah’s 10 first-half turnovers.
The Bulldogs haven’t lost three in a row since dropping four straight from Dec. 16, 2006-Jan. 3, 2007, and hadn’t dropped three consecutive games before that since 2000.
The Utes scored their last field goal on Nevill’s hook shot with 4:03 remaining but made eight consecutive free throws down the stretch in front of a season-high 12,571 fans.
“The last plays when Luke grabbed the rebound, and Luka and I hitting the free throws—all those little plays define the grit and toughness that our coach is always asking for,” said Carlon Brown, who made Utah’s final points with 19.7 seconds left.
Gonzaga last played Utah in Salt Lake City on Dec. 8, 1962, losing 100-79.