During the first 40 minutes of Wednesday night’s game between conference leader Utah and CSU, the Rams heavily outplayed their opponent from Salt Lake City. But when two halves weren’t enough, neither was CSU’s effort, as Utah took control in overtime to win 89-79.
With 14.5 seconds remaining in regulation, the Rams (8-18, 3-9 MWC) had both the ball and the opportunity for the final shot. Following the CSU timeout, it was apparent that senior guard Marcus Walker was going to be the one who had a chance to be the hero. The Kansas City native decided to drive inside for a layup, but had his shot swatted away by 7-foot-2 Luke Nevill of Utah, making his seventh blocked shot of the night.
“Man, I should have just pulled it to a 15-footer,” Walker said. “I decided to go in there to the land of the giants. He was blocking everything, so I could have been a little bit smarter, but I was just trying to be aggressive.”
Walker confirmed that head coach Tim Miles gave him green light in those final seconds.
“Yeah, I wanted that one. You live with it, but I’ll be alright,” Walker said.
Walker finished the game with a team-high 22 points.
In overtime, Utah (19-7, 10-2 MWC) had the momentum swing in their favor, and the Utes senior Australian center, Nevill, took control. He had eight of his 23 points and five of his 14 rebounds during the extra five minutes.
“We gotta make sure we keep a body on him every play,” said sophomore forward Andy Ogide, who was matched up on Nevill in the post for the majority of the game. “If he doesn’t get those inside catches, then he doesn’t score like that.”
The Rams were able to keep Nevill relatively quiet during the first half of the game, holding him to only six points. Ogide credited that to having faced him earlier in the season in Salt Lake City.
The biggest surprise of the game came from Utah’s Tyler Kepkay, who came off the bench to score a career-high 27 points on 9-16 shooting from the field.
“Tyler is good. We recruited Tyler when we could,” Miles said. “What I was surprised about was that he hurt us in transition, just ran it down our throats, and that’s what a determined senior does to you. I just credit him; he was a real difference in the game.
“You know what you’re getting with Nevill. You know that’s a tough match-up . He’s an NBA prospect. But when Kepkay went on that run, mid-late second half, that was a real hurtful time.”
The Rams will go back to practice this week before taking a road trip to the U.S. Air Force Academy on Saturday where they will face the Air Force Falcons.
Men’s basketball beat writer Matt L. Stephens can be reached at email@example.com.