Andrew Bogut scores against Colorado State center Matt Nelson. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
March 10, 2005
By EDDIE PELLS
AP Sports Writer
DENVER - Andrew Bogut scored 11 of his 21 points over the first 4 minutes and the Utah guards took over from there, leading the 15th-ranked Utes to a 62-49 win over Colorado State in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference tournament Thursday.
Bogut, widely regarded as the best player in the country, also grabbed 17 rebounds, although he was held in check for long stretches of this game against the eighth-seeded Rams.
With the conference's freshman of the year, 7-footer Jason Smith, shutting down the big Australian - even rejecting his shot three times - it was Marc Jackson and Bryant Markson who helped top-seeded Utah (26-4) pull away.
Jackson (14 points, five assists) made two free throws, a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play during a 19-4 run in the second half that turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 55-39 lead.
Markson (12 points) also scored four points and helped Utah with a three-quarter-court trap that the Rams had trouble handling in the second half.
Led by Smith, 7-1 center Matt Nelson and scrappy guard Micheal Morris, the Rams (11-17) looked like a team with too much talent to struggle the way they did this season. Smith roamed around the middle, hitting a couple shots directly over Bogut in the first half.
Just as impressive was the way Smith shut down the 7-foot center. After Bogut, a sophomore who is expected to declare for the NBA draft after the season, scored the first 11 points for Utah, he had trouble finding anything open in the middle.
Once, he had an easy layup swatted off the backboard by Smith. Another time, Bogut turned for what looked like an easy shot, only to see Smith come from the back side to reject him again.
But he couldn't be stopped forever. After CSU cut its 16-point deficit to seven, Bogut took a sweet pass from Jackson for a slam. Moments later, Jackson made an alley-oop layup from Tim Drisdom to push the lead to 11.
Nelson had 14 points, Smith had 12 and eight rebounds and Matt Williams had 12 points for Colorado State, which upset Air Force last year as the eighth seed and looked like it might pull a similar upset for a good portion of this game.
Instead, the Rams went home and Utah moved on in its quest to improve seeing for the NCAA tournament.