Kepkay, Nevill lead Utah past Colorado State 89-79
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP)—Like the rest of his teammates, Luke Nevill got off to a slow start against scrappy Colorado State before finishing with a flourish.
Nevill blocked the potential game-winner at the end of regulation and scored eight of his 23 points in overtime as the Utes survived a scare the Rams 89-79 Wednesday night for their seventh straight win.
Nevill, who had just six points in the first half after getting into early foul trouble, tied a school record with seven blocks, became Utah’s all-time single-season shot-blocker and pulled down 14 rebounds.
Tyler Kepkay led the Utes with a career-best 27 points, including four in overtime after his potential game-winner with 17 seconds left in regulation rimmed out.
“I thought that one was in,” said Kepkay, a senior who’s previous best was 23 points.
His miss, however, set up a fantastic finish by Nevill, who sent the game into overtime, then took over.
Lawrence Borha added 16 points for the Utes (19-7, 10-2 Mountain West), who remained atop the conference standings but it wasn’t the runaway over the Rams (8-18, 3-9) that their records suggested was in store.
“I don’t think my team totally understands yet that we’re on the top of the Mountain West and people are going to give us a great shot when we come into their building,” Utes coach Jim Boylen said. “I thought their energy to start the game was awesome. I thought they were tougher than us to start the game. They were more physical than us to start the game.
“And it took us a while to get going. But I thought once we did we were very good.”
The Utes trailed by 10 twice in the first half and went into the locker room trailing 38-34.
Marcus Walker led the Rams with 22 points but his potential game-winning runner was blocked by Nevill at the end of regulation with the score tied at 73.
“I went into the Land of the Giants and he was blocking everything,” Walker said. “I could have been smarter and take an outside shot. I tied to be aggressive and he blocked me.”
“It was my shot to take.”
And Nevill’s to swat.
“I saw him coming at me and I thought about protecting the rim,” Nevill said. “He got a high screen and I was in position to either alter the shot or block it.
“I got it.”
Nevill’s seven blocks tied the school’s single-game record set by Larry Cain against San Diego State in December 1993 and gave him 71 blocks this season, surpassing Andrew Bogut’s single-season mark of 65 set in 2004-05. Nevill is the school’s career leader with 183 blocks.
“He was a force in the middle,” Boylen said. “I thought he was fresh. Sometimes when a guy gets two fouls in the first half and you have to rest him, sometimes it works for you because they’re more fresh at the end, and Luke’s been dominant in the paint for us all year, protecting the basket, reacting. And he’s been huge at the end of close games.”
Something nobody was expecting to see on this night.
“When we play with energy we can play with anyone,” Rams coach Tim Miles said. “That is a team that is on the edge of being Top 25. We didn’t execute enough at the end of regulation and we start overtime with turnover, turnover and missed layup.”
Nevill missed a jumper for the Utes, then sank two free throws and a basket and the Rams never recovered.
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