Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Utah's Luke Nevill shoots over UNLV's Curtis Terry, left, as Joe Darger, center, and Rene Rougeau watch. Nevill scored a game-high 26 points.

Luke Nevill played a vital role in the Utes' 81-73 win over league-leading UNLV on Wednesday night.

The 7-foot-1 center from Australia scored a game-high 26 points, pulled down four rebounds, blocked three shots and had three assists. He also showed the reason that he has driven coach Jim Boylen mad at times when he doesn't play at his highest level.

"I thought he played pretty well, but it was this size 13 (Boylen's shoe size) that turned it around," said coach Jim Boylen of motivating Nevill after a slow start. "He responded to coaching and he competed, and when he does that he is very good."

As UNLV burst to a 9-2 lead, Nevill was anything but the potential player-of-the-game. In the first five minutes, he missed his first shot — which turned out to be a rarity as he shot 11-for-14 from the field — and he committed his only turnover. He was subbed for at the 14:51 mark and spent some time on the bench, where he received a little lecture.

"I started the game off kind of sluggish. That is something I have to work on," said Nevill. "I wasn't into the game physically and mentally at the real start, and I can't be like that against good teams.

"He (Boylen) got on me a little bit and told me I needed to play better to get this rolling, to get a win. I came out and tried to do whatever I could to help my teammates out and to contain UNLV to get a win."

Nevill was put back in the game with 10:24 left in the half, and from that point on, he played exactly how Boylen envisions Nevill should play when talking about the junior. Boylen has tried to help Nevill live up to the high expectations placed on his ample shoulders.

"I made him accountable for his actions," said Boylen. "I tell him what he does wrong, and I raise the bar for what he is allowed to do.

"He's not allowed to just play. He's not allowed to just run up and down. He's not allowed to not rebound, or not pass the ball, or not get in his stance. He doesn't take practices off; it doesn't happen here."

Boylen's tactics worked as Nevill played like a man possessed that last 30 minutes of the Utes' upset win. He scored 18 points in the second half, including one stretch where he netted 12 straight.

"Luke was very important for us,' said Johnnie Bryant, who matched Nevill's total of 26 points. "We tried to get the ball to the secondary side and then find him down in the paint. With our outside shooters, it was kind of pick your poison. He played well for us."

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