Jan. 24, 1998
LAS VEGAS (AP) - - Utah didn't need to wait until the end of the game to ensure its best start in school history. By the time the first half was over, so were UNLV's chances of upsetting the fourth-ranked Utes.
Utah blew open the game in the first half Saturday, beating UNLV 67-54 to remain unbeaten in 17 games and break a school record for most wins to open the season that was set in 1913.
"I'm excited," center Michael Doleac said. "I don't know if we're excited about being the best team in school history. We're excited about just playing to the best of our ability as a team."
Doleac and Hanno Mottola each scored 12 points in the first half and Utah's defense shut down UNLV in the first half in a game that was essentially over with Utah holding a 40-20 halftime lead.
Utah (17-0, 5-0 Western Athletic Conference) held UNLV to 32 percent shooting in the first half, when the Rebels had only two assists and seldom got a good look at the basket.
"We can't play much better than we played today," Doleac said.
UNLV (9-8, 2-3) made a brief run late in the second half, pulling within 65-54 on a three-point play by Kaspars Kambala with 26 seconds left, but never seriously challenged the Utes.
"I thought the kids played great defense," Utah coach Rick Majerus said. "As much as I'm ecstatic about our defensive effort, I thought the unselfishness in sharing the ball was important too."
Doleac and Mottola both finished with 19 points, while Andre Miller added 10 for Utah.
Kambala scored 19 points, while Keon Clark was the only other UNLV player in double figures with 15.
Utah, which came into the game fourth in the nation in scoring defense at 55.7 points a game, bettered that average against the Runnin' Rebels, who were booed at halftime by fans for their offensive futility. UNLV shot 38 percent for the game, while Utah shot 53 percent.
"We had a chance in the second half. We executed and played together. But losing is unacceptable," UNLV coach Bill Bayno said. "I didn't come here to lose and neither did the players I recruited."
It is the best start in school history for Utah, whose previous best was 16-0 in the 1912-13 season. Utah has won 31 of its last 32 games, with the only loss during that period a 72-59 defeat to Kentucky in the NCAA West Regional finals last year.
"We're not the most talented offensive team in the world," Doleac said. "We do play extremely good defense and go to the boards well. That's what we take pride in."
UNLV started out like it might make a game of it, leading 8-4 early. But Utah went on a 16-4 run, then followed a basket by Clark with a 10-0 run that put the Utes up 30-14 with 3:47 left in the first half.
During that run, UNLV went 5:14 without a score and turned the ball over in six of seven possessions.
Utah came into the game along with Stanford as the only undefeated Division I teams in the country.