Saturday, March 13, 1999

Utes' size overpowers Arkansas St.

The Associated Press

        NEW ORLEANS — If Arkansas State proved speed could kill, Utah showed that size can save.

        The Utes, with a starting front line that averages 6-foot-9 and 233 pounds, got 18 points and 11 rebounds from Alex Jensen to keep them in the game. Then Hanno Mottola scored 22 points — 19 in the second half — to beat Arkansas State 80-58 in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional Friday.

        “Alex kept us in the game in the first half, I don't know how many offensive rebounds he had, but he was valiant,” Mottola said. “Then he got into some foul trouble in the second half and I got some open looks.”

        The victory stretched the Utes' winning streak to 23 games. They have never lost an NCAA first-round game under coach Rick Majerus.

        Utah (28-4) dominated inside with its superior height against Arkansas State, whose front line averages 6-61/2, outrebouding the Indians 40-24, and wearing them down in the second half.

        “Our whole front line is so much taller than them,” Jensen said. “In the end, we just used our height, especially inside.”

        Arkansas State (18-12), shot 42 percent in the first half but made just three of 13 field goals in the first 13 minutes of the second half.

        “We played with good intensity the first half, but I think their size just wore us down,” Arkansas State coach Dickey Nutt said. “When they closed down the perimeter, they were able to shut us down inside.”

        Arkansas State was playing in its first-ever NCAA tournament game. The Indians won the Sun Belt tournament to earn the berth. Their smaller, speedy team was able to give Utah problems early on, opening a 15-7 lead in the first seven minutes.

        But after Eric Beatty's basket at 13:15 Arkansas State did not score again until Beatty hit two free throws at the 5:25 mark. During that stretch, the Indians turned the ball over, couldn't get shots off and missed baskets. Utah came roaring back with an 18-0 scoring run and took a 25-15 lead.

        “We're a grind-it-out kind of team,” Majerus said. “We just keep going and playing defense and score off our defense.”

        Chico Fletcher, the Sun Belt player of the year, scored 21 points to lead Arkansas State.

        ARKANSAS ST. (18-12) — Hicks 1-2 0-0 2, Beatty 5-14 7-8 17, Holloway 2-3 0-0 5, A.Harvey 1-8 4-7 7, Fletcher 7-15 6-8 21, Denson 1-2 1-2 4, Pepper 0-2 2-2 2, Williams 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-47 20-27 58.

        UTAH (28-4) — Mottola 6-15 8-9 22, Jensen 5-10 6-9 18, Althoff 1-1 1-2 3, Miller 2-4 4-5 8, Killion 2-4 2-2 7, Sharp 1-1 1-2 3, T.Harvey 4-7 4-4 14, Cullen 2-6 1-2 5. Totals 23-48 27-35 80.

        Halftime score—Utah 36, Arkansas St. 30. 3-Point Goals—Arkansas St. 4-7 (Holloway 1-1, Denson 1-1, Fletcher 1-2, A.Harvey 1-3), Utah 7-19 (Jensen 2-3, T.Harvey 2-3, Mottola 2-6, Killion 1-3, Miller 0-1, Cullen 0-3). Fouled out—Holloway, Denson, Jensen. Rebounds—Arkansas St. 23 (A.Harvey, Hicks 4), Utah 40 (Jensen 11). Assists—Arkansas St. 8 (Fletcher 3), Utah 12 (Miller 4). Total fouls—Arkansas St. 25, Utah 23.


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- Utes' size overpowers Arkansas St.