For the second time this season, Ute guard Johnnie Bryant has been named Mountain West Conference Player of the Week, sharing the award with New Mexico's J.R. Giddens.
Bryant earned the honor after helping the Utes to a pair of eight-point wins last week, 81-73 over UNLV Wednesday and 67-59 over Air Force Saturday.
The Ute senior poured in a season-high 26 points against UNLV and added 17 at Air Force. He made half of his 3-point shots for the week (8 of 16), more than half of his 2-point shots (5 of 8) and all of his free throws (9 of 9).
Bryant keyed a second-half comeback at Air Force and admitted after the game that he tried a couple of shots that were outside of the offense.
"Coach gives me the freedom, so if I (shoot) it, I've got to make it," he said. "In the second half, I (shot) it right in front of the bench (and made it), so it was kind of a get-out-of-jail-free pass."
Boylen acknowledged Monday that he had a talk with Bryant right after Christmas and gave him the "green light" to shoot.
"To me, he's earned the right to have that freedom," he said.
"(I said) if you feel you have the shot, in rhythm, even if you're guarded, you can take that shot. And he's responded to that. I think he's respected the game and hasn't forced a lot of shots."
For the season, Bryant is averaging 14.2 points a game on 51.9 percent from the field and 46.5 percent from 3-point range. The latter figure ranks Bryant 11th in the nation in 3-point shooting.
Bryant currently ranks second in Utah history with 216 3-pointers, having recently passed Keith Van Horn.
However unless the Utes have an extended postseason run, he's not going to catch all-time Ute leader Nick Jacobson, who has 287.
Bryant should end up as the career 3-point percentage leader, however, breaking Marc Jackson's career mark of 43.9 percent.
JUST ONE BUCK: Fans can get into Saturday's Ute game against San Diego State for just 100 cents to celebrate the 100 years of Utah basketball.
For those not good at math, that's $1to see the game and Utah's All-Century team unveiled at halftime of the 2 p.m. game.
The special 100-cent tickets are in the upper bowl of the Huntsman Center and will be available through Friday. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Rice-Eccles Stadium ticket office between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are also available online at UtahUtes.com or by calling 801-581-UTIX (8849).
Also, the first 10,000 fans in attendance at Saturday's game will receive a commemorative cup, celebrating the 100 Years of Utah Basketball with the names of the 16 Utah All-Century Team members.
BACK TO EVEN: With their victory at Air Force Saturday, the Utes have made it back to even, despite having a record of 5-4.
Over the years we've paid more attention to the plus-minus standings because they determine how a team is really doing in relation to the other teams in the standings.
Because the Utes have won two road games and lost two home games, they are even in the plus-minus standings. BYU and UNLV are both plus-3, while San Diego State is plus-1. Air Force and New Mexico are also even.
It means that if the Utes win the rest of their home games and lose the rest of their road games, they will finish 8-8 in the conference standings.
Looking ahead to the conference tournament in Las Vegas, the Utes appear to be headed to the 4-vs.-5-seed game, which will be at 3:30 MST on Thursday, March 13. The other most likely game would be the 3-6 game, which will be at 10 p.m. MST.
UTE NOTES: At Monday's press conference, Boylen mentioned another future opponent to go along with others mentioned in this column last month. Besides road games at Oklahoma and Missouri State next year, the Utes will play at Michigan in the 2008-09 season. Both Oklahoma and Michigan will come to Utah the years after they play on their home courts ... Bryant is hitting 96.7 percent from the free-throw line this season, having missed just one free throw, late in the UC-Irvine game on Dec. 1 ... In the last three victories the Utes have outrebounded their opponents by 33 after getting outrebounded the four previous games by 24.