March 10, 2003
Just the Facts
Utah (23-6, 11-3 MWC) competes in the 2003 EAS Mountain West Conference Tournament, Thursday though Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center (18,500) in Las Vegas, Nev.
The Utes were the Mountain West Conference co-champions with Brigham Young during the regular season. The Utes are the No. 1 seed in the tournament by virtue of sweeping BYU during the regular season. Utah plays No. 8 seed Air Force (12-15, 3-11 MWC) in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. (PST). Should Utah win, it will advance to face the winner of No. 4 UNLV (19-9, 8-6 MWC) vs. No. 5 San Diego State (15-12, 6-8 MWC) in the semifinal round on Friday at 9:00 p.m (PST). The championship game takes place on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. (PST). The Mountain West Conference Tournament champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
All of the Utes' games in the Mountain West Conference Tournament will be broadcast on the Utah Sports Network (KALL-910 AM in Salt Lake City and affiliate stations). The games will also be carried on the Internet at www.theMWC.com. Bill Marcroft (play-by-play), Mark Rydalch (analyst) and Brad Stone (host) call the action.
ESPN Regional will televise Utah's first round game against Air Force on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. (PST). The game will be carried locally on KJZZ-TV in Salt Lake City. Rich Waltz (play-by-play) and Irv Brown (analyst) call the action.
Should Utah advance, its semifinal game on Friday at 9:00 p.m. (PST) and potential championship game on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. (PST) would be televised by ESPN with Bob Carpenter (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst) serving as the talent.
The Utes In Conference Tournaments
Utah has competed in 19 previous conference tournaments-16 as a member of the Western Athletic Conference and the last three in the MWC-posting a 22-16 (.579) record. The Utes won WAC Tournament titles in 1995, '97 and '99. In the Mountain West Tournament, the Utes have lost in the semifinals the last three years.
The Utes' .579 combined winning percentage in WAC (1984-99) and MWC (2000-02) tournaments ranks third among the conference teams. UNLV at .769 (10-3) and New Mexico at .585 (24-17) rank first and second, respectively, ahead of Utah. BYU is fourth at .531 (17-15).
2003 EAS Mountain West Conference Tournament Schedule
Quarterfinals - Thursday (March 7) Game 1 - No. 2 BYU (22-7, 11-3) vs. No. 7 New Mexico (11-16, 5-8), 12:00 p.m. (ESPN+Plus) Game 2 - No. 3 Wyoming (20-9, 8-6) vs. No. 6 Colorado St. (16-13, 5-9), 2:30 p.m. (ESPN+Plus) Game 3 - No. 1 Utah (23-6, 11-3) vs. No. 8 Air Force (11-16, 2-12), 6:00 p.m. (ESPN+Plus) Game 4 - No. 4 UNLV (19-9, 8-6) vs. No. 5 San Diego State (15-12, 6-8), 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Semifinals - Friday (March 8) Game 5 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN+Plus) Game 6 - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Championship - Saturday (March 8) Game 7 - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN) (All Times Pacific Standard Time)
Quickly On Utah
The Runnin' Utes are 23-6 overall and were the Mountain West Conference regular-season co-champions with an 11-3 record. Utah, ranked 23rd by ESPN/USA Today and 27th in the A.P. poll, has won 18 of its last 21 games. The Utes split their last two regular-season games at home, losing to Colorado State on Thursday night, 66-65, and defeating Wyoming, 86-70, on Saturday afternoon.
Utah was ranked 11th in the NCAA in scoring defense and 27th in three-point percentage as of March 4, and is currently giving up 60.6 points per game while hitting 38.7 percent from beyond the arc. Utah went 15-1 at home this season, 7-3 on the road and 1-2 on neutral courts.
Three Utes are averaging double figures in points. Junior center Tim Frost (6-10, 236) leads the way in scoring (13.3 ppg), shooting a team-best 51.8 percent from the field, and is second in rebounding (4.9 rpg). Junior guard Nick Jacobson (6-4, 200) is second in scoring (13.1 ppg) and is shooting 42.0 percent from three-point range (68-for-162) and a team-best 86.0 percent from the free throw line. Senior forward Britton Johnsen (6-10, 210) is third in scoring (11.6 ppg) and leads the effort in rebounding (6.7 rpg). Freshman point guard Tim Drisdom (6-3, 203) leads the Utes in assists (3.2 apg). Sophomore guard Marc Jackson (6-1, 177) is fourth in scoring (9.1 ppg), shooting 45.6 percent from three-point range.
Four Utes Make All-Mountain West Team
Utah landed four players on the 2002-03 all-Mountain West Conference team, the most of any school in the league. Junior center Tim Frost, sophomore guard Marc Jackson and senior forward Britton Johnsen were named to the second team, while junior guard Nick Jacobson made the third team. Senior forward Trace Caton earned honorable mention.
Frost, in his first season with the Utes after transferring from Portland, ranked tied for 11th in scoring (14.3 ppg), third in field goal percentage (55.3), first in three-point percentage (56.2) and ninth in free throw percentage (78.3) in the MWC during the 14 league games. The Klamath Falls, Ore., native was also tied for 11th in rebounds (4.9 rpg) and seventh in blocked shots (0.93 bpg).
Jackson scored in double figures in the first eight conference games, keying Utah's 9-1 start. The sophomore from Olympus High School in Salt Lake City ranked 15th in scoring (13.4 ppg), 12th in field goal percentage (51.1), third in three-point percentage (47.7), seventh in free throw percentage (84.3), second in assists (3.43 apg), and fourth in assists/turnover ratio (1.60) during the conference season.
Johnsen earned all-league recognition for the second year. He was named the Mountain West Player of the Year and first team all-league in 2001-02. The native of Murray, Utah, ranked 18th in scoring (11.2 ppg), 14th in field goal percentage (46.2), fifth in rebounding (7.0 rpg) and tied for 14th in steals (1.07 spg) in league games despite recovering from a torn ligament in his right thumb the first part of the conference schedule.
Jacobson was named third team all-MWC for the second consecutive season. He was also the league's Freshman of the Year in 2000-01. In the conference season, the junior from Fargo, N.D., ranked 14th in scoring (13.1 ppg), third in free throw percentage (86.0), 15th in three-point percentage (37.8) and tied for seventh in three-pointers per game (2.00).
Utes Own Nation's Best Conference Championship Run
Capturing a share of the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship this season, Utah claimed its eighth conference title in nine years under Rick Majerus. Winning 10 conference regular-season titles during the last 13 seasons, the Runnin' Utes own the most regular-season conference championships in the nation over that period of time.
Cincinnati (Great Midwest/Conference USA), Kansas (Big 8/Big 12), Kentucky (SEC) and Murray State (Ohio Valley) are one off the pace, winning nine regular-season league titles in the last 13 years. In addition, the Utes' eight titles in the last nine years is tied with Valparaiso (Mid-Continent) for best mark over that time frame.
Highlighting their conference championships during Rick Majerus' tenure, which began in 1989-90, the Utes won the WAC regular-season championship outright in 1991 and shared it in 1993 before winning five consecutive outright WAC titles from 1995-99 (the last three being divisional titles). Utah went 10-4 in conference play in 1999-2000 to share the inaugural Mountain West Conference championship with UNLV. The Utes also went 10-4 in 2000-01 to split the title with Brigham Young and Wyoming. The Utes' string of seven consecutive conference championships ended in 2002 when they finished one game behind Wyoming at 10-4 in the MWC.
Utah went 11-3 in the Mountain West Conference this season to get its most wins in the four seasons of the league's existence. It was also the Utes' best conference record since going 14-0 in its final season in the Western Athletic Conference in 1999.
Most Regular Season Conference Titles Since 1990-91 Season
Utah WAC/Mountain West 10 Cincinnati Great Midwest/C-USA 9 Kansas Big 8/Big 12 9 Kentucky SEC 9 Murrary St. Ohio Valley 9 Chattanooga Southern 8 Valparaiso Mid-Continent 8 Penn Ivy 8 Princeton Ivy 7
(Includes shared titles and divisional titles)
Scouting The Falcons
Air Force is 12-15 overall and finished eighth the Mountain West Conference with a 3-11 record. The Falcons snapped a season-long five-game losing streak with a 68-60 home win over New Mexico on Saturday afternoon. Air Force started its losing skid with a loss to Wyoming (64-57) at home on Feb. 17, dropped road games at San Diego State (67-53) on Feb. 22 and UNLV (74-70) on Feb. 24, then fell to Brigham Young (56-43) on March 1 and Utah (57-52) on March 3 in Colorado Springs. Air Force lost its only game on a neutral court this season to UAB (69-59) on Dec. 27 in UTEP's tournament.
Sophomore guard Tim Keller (6-3, 180), who earned third team all-MWC honors, ranks tied for eighth in the Mountain West in scoring (15.2 ppg) and second in steals (42). Keller ranked seventh in the NCAA in three-point percentage as of March 4. He is currently shooting 45.6 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 2.89 threes per game to rank first and second, respectively, in the MWC in those categories. Keller is also an 83.5 percent shooter from the free throw line to rank tied for fifth in the conference. Junior forward Joel Gerlach (6-6, 195) is 15th in the MWC in scoring (12.1 ppg) and third in three-point percentage (44.6). Gerlach also and has a team-high 28 blocked shots to rank sixth in the league. Junior forward A.J. Kuhle (6-4, 185) is third in scoring (8.6 ppg), hitting 37.2 percent from beyond the arc. Senior center Tom Bellairs (6-7, 220) leads Air Force in rebounds (4.2 rpg) and assists (2.9 apg).
The Falcons led the NCAA in scoring defense as of last March 4 and are currently giving up 57.6 points per game. They also ranked 18th in the nation in field goal percentage, 28th in three-point field goals per game and 32nd in three-point percentage. After Saturday's games, Air Force ranks eighth in the MWC in scoring (58/0 ppg), third in three-point percentage (38.1), tied for first in three-pointers made per game (8.00), second in field goal percentage (48.8), first in assist/turnover ratio (1.16) and eighth in rebound margin (-9.1 rpg).
Utah-Air Force Series Notes
* Utah and Air Force meet for the 47th time on Thursday. The series dates back to a 108-57 win by the Runnin' Utes on Dec. 23, 1965 in Salt Lake City.
* The Runnin' Utes have won four in a row and 14 of the last 15 games from the Falcons. The last four games in the series have been decided by an average of seven points with one game going to overtime. Utah swept the season series, winning 45-35 on Feb. 1 in Salt Lake City and 57-52 on March 3 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
* Utah leads the all-time series 39-7. Utah had won 10 in a row before Air Force defeated Utah in the second meeting in 2001 by a 71-60 margin on March 1 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
* Utah won its only previous game against Air Force on a neutral court, defeating the Falcons 74-65 on March 9, 2000 in the quarterfinals of the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas. The Utes have faced Air Force one other time in postseason play, getting a 66-64 win on March 6, 1985 in the second round of the WAC Tournament in the Huntsman Center.
* Utah's most decisive win over Air Force under Rick Majerus was 26 points (87-61) on Feb. 18, 1993 in Salt Lake City.
* Air Force has only one win against Utah with Rick Majerus on the bench. The Falcons won 91-89 on Feb. 19, 1994 in overtime in Colorado Springs. When Air Force won in 2000-01, Dick Hunsaker was serving as Utah's acting head coach.
* Rick Majerus is 21-1 against Air Force all-time and 20-1 during his tenure at Utah.
* Joe Scott is 1-5 against Utah and 0-4 head-to-head against Rick Majerus.
Jacobson Stroking "J"s
Junior guard Nick Jacobson (6-4, 200), a third team all-Mountain West selection for the second consecutive season, is Utah's second-best scorer (13.1 ppg). Jacobson also paces the team in three-pointers made, hitting 68-of-162 (42.0 percent) from beyond the arc. He ranks 14th in the Mountain West in scoring, first in free throw percentage (86.0), seventh in three-point percentage and fourth in three-pointers made (2.34).
* Jacobson has scored in double-figures in 44 of the last 59 games dating back to last season, including 23 of the 29 games in 2002-03. He has led the Utes in scoring eight times this season.
* With his numbers this season, Jacobson ranks tied for second in three-pointers made (68) and third in three-point attempts (162) on the Ute single-season charts. Last season, Jacobson set the Utah single-season mark with 71 three-pointers, bettering the mark of 68 by Phil Dixon in 1991-92. He also ranked third in three-point attempts (160).
* Jacobson has already climbed into third place in career three-pointers made (176) and third in three-pointers attempted (419) at Utah. His career three-point percentage of 42.0 entering this season would have ranked fourth all-time at Utah. Jacobson became the 30th player in school history to score 1,000 points against Colorado State on March 6. He currently has 1,015 points in his career, needed three more to tie Pace Mannion for 29th place.
From Beyond The Arc
Utah is shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range and ranked 27th in the NCAA as of March 4. The Utes have hit at least 40 percent of their long-range shots 15 times and 50 percent or better on six occasions. Utah is 13-2 when shooting at least 40 percent from three-point land this season.
* Utah tied a season-best effort from three-point range against Wyoming on Feb. 10, connecting on 57.1 percent (8-of-14) from beyond the arc.
One of the trademarks of a Utah team during the Rick Majerus era is a stifling half-court defense. Since 1989-90, Utah has ranked in the top 30 in the nation 10 times in scoring defense, nine times in rebound margin, eight times in field goal percentage defense and eight times in scoring margin.
* This season, Utah ranked 11th in the NCAA in scoring defense as of March 4 and is currently giving up 60.6 points per game.
* The Utes have held 16 teams under 60 points this season and four teams under 50 points.
* Twelve opponents have shot under 40 percent from the field this season. The only team to defeat Utah when shooting under 40 percent is New Mexico on March 1 when the Lobos shot 38.1 percent. However, the Lobos made 40-of-53 free throws.
* Air Force on March 3 (52.9) and Colorado State on Feb. 8 (50.0) are the only teams to shoot 50 percent or better from the field on Utah in 2002-03. The Utes won both of those games.
* Utah has not allowed an opponent to score 80 points in 91 consecutive games that have ended in regulation. The last team to score 80 points on the Utes in a 40-minute game was Wyoming (88-61) on Feb. 28, 2000 in Laramie, Wyo.
Knockin' Them Down From The Line
In its last eight games, Utah has shot 85.4 percent from the free throw line, going 134-of-157. As a result, Utah has improved from a rough start at the charity stripe to 71.7 percent on the season and shot 75.5 percent in Mountain West Conference play.
* The Utes had a season-best effort (in games with over 10 attempts) from the free throw line to salt away their overtime win against UNLV on Feb. 17. Utah shot 92.3 percent, hitting 24-of-26. The Utes hit all 10 free throws in the overtime period and went 10-of-11 in the second half. As a result, Utah scored a season-high 86 points against the Rebels.
* Utah came back in its next game on Feb. 24 to hit 92.0 percent from the line against BYU on Feb. 24. The Utes hit 23-of-25 free throws, including all eight in the last minute.
* After hitting 7-of-7 free throws against New Mexico, the Utes made 17-of-19 free throws at Air Force on March 3. In the final 3:44 versus the Falcons, the U. hit 12-of-13 at the line.
Noting The Season
* Utah equaled a season-high with 86 points against Wyoming on March 8. The Utes also shot 52.8 percent from the field in that game, improving to 10-1 when they shoot 50 percent or better this season.
* The Utes are 17-2 this season with a positive or equal assist/turnover ratio. Utah had a season-low six turnovers in its win over Wyoming on March 8. Utah had had fewer than 10 turnovers in six games this season.
* The Utes' five road victories in conference play is its most since being a member of the Mountain West and ties the best mark in league history. The Utes had four road wins in 2002 for its previous best total. Wyoming and BYU also have the conference's best road record for a season. The Cowboys had five road wins in 2002 while BYU reached that mark in 2003.