and judging from all the empty seats, you did - the University of Utah dragged another stiff into the Huntsman Center Wednesday night and committed more mayhem. This time the Utes routed Morehead State, which no doubt regrets ever setting foot inside the state boundaries. The score: Utah 77, Morehead State 48.
Josh Grant played just long enough (a team-high 20 minutes) to get some exercise, not to mention 17 points, and then the Utes emptied their bench or things might have really gotten ugly.If you're scoring, the victory leaves Utah with a glossy, who-would've-believed-it 9-1 record heading into Saturday night's game against Wichita State - ah, now there's an opponent, at last. Morehead State, meanwhile, limps back to Kentucky after losing first to Southern Utah State by 26 points and then to Utah by 29. And to think, the Eagles brought a 5-1 record to the Beehive state.
Such blowouts are becoming a regular occurence these days in the Huntsman Center. The Utes have beaten seven teams by 14 or more points this season, including their last five opponents. Three were non-Division 1 teams.
On the one hand, Utah coach Rick Majerus defended playing Morehead State. "They're Division 1," he said. "They return four starters from last year's team. They lost by only two at Dayton." On the other hand, Majerus was saying, "You've got to buy some guarantee games. Everyone has these games." And then again, on the other hand, Majerus was saying, "I'll tell you what; I'll play Vegas right now. I'll give you $5,000 if you can get them to play us now."
Well, all this aside for the moment, Majerus says the Utes are planning to upgrade their schedule next year. "There will be no non-Division 1 teams," he vows.
In the meantime, the slaughter continues. These recent Ute routs play like Rocky movies; You know how they end, they're predictable, but somehow people keep buying tickets (10,300 tickets were sold for Wednesday's game, although only about 8,000 fans actually showed up).
The Utes were leading 9-8 six minutes into the game when they delivered the knockout. They started a 17-0 run (or 22-2, if you prefer), and by halftime led 43-20.
The Eagles stubbornly persisted in staying in their standard zone defense, even while the Utes were consistently and successfully shooting over it. The Utes made 8 of 15 three-point shots in the first half, 5 of them in the first five minutes of play. Grant had 12 points in the first half, and Phil Dixon, making 4 of 5 shots, had 11 points (but never scored again).
For their part, the Eagles couldn't find their range. They made just two field goals in the last 14:35 of the half.
"Their defense just smothered us the entire game," said Eagle coach Tommy Gaither, whose team made 15 of 52 shots (29 percent) for the night. "We had a hard time scoring all night. Coach Majerus' teams are always among the best defensive teams in the country."
The Utes, whose lead peaked at 35 points early in the second half, substituted freely throughout the game. Fifteen players played (including three walkons); 13 players scored (but only Dixon and Grant made double figures).
"These games . . . ," said center Walter Watts, "we don't get to play much." Watts had 4 points and 11 boards and played just 19 minutes.
"We thought this would be tougher," said guard Tyrone Tate. "Coach told usthey'd be tough."
In fairness to the Eagles, they were shorthanded. Some-time starters Larry Crowder and Damon Miller were suspended from the team for disciplinary reasons, and starter Mitch Sowards was sidelined with an injury. Still, their leading scorer, guard P.J. Nichols, finished with just three points - well below his 16.9 average. Center Rod Mitchell had 19 points (and 11 boards), but 11 of his points came at the foul line.
"You've got to give our guys credit," said Majerus. "They played well together. They played unselfishly." He'll get no argument from the Eagles.