No. 5 Utah got two gifts Thursday night as the Utes took aim at a first seed in the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
Texas-El Paso provided the first, playing a sloppy game and virtually handing the dominant Utes a 71-49 victory. Brigham Young gave them the other, beating Mountain Division leader New Mexico to set up a first-place showdown Saturday when the 16th-ranked Lobos (21-5, 11-2) visit Utah (24-2, 11-2).
"I'm surprised at New Mexico's loss," Utah coach Rick Majerus said. "It certainly puts us in a great situation for Saturday. A win and we take the division outright. What more can you ask for than that?"
"It's probably the best thing that's happened to me since I've been at Utah," said Andre Miller, who had 10 points for Utah.
A Utah victory was never really in doubt as the Utes used a 10-2 run to take a decisive 59-33 lead with 7:31 remaining and coasted from there.
Miller opened the scoring binge with an easy layup at the 11:33 mark, and Michael Doleac added eight points on two buckets and two free throws over the next four minutes.
The Utes were sluggish during parts of the game, but never led by less than 14 points in the second half and owned 26-point leads on four occasions.
Doleac led the Utes with 15 points.
Brandon Wolfram and William Smith paced the Miners with 13 points each. UTEP shot only 35 percent, 19 of 55.
"They gave us the perimeter early in the game and we just couldn't make anything," UTEP coach Don Haskins said.
An easy fastbreak score by Miller that gave Utah a 51-31 lead with 11:33 remaining typified the Miner's sloppy play. UTEP's Jon Bomba was trying to hand the ball to Smith when Miller slipped between them and took the ball the length of the court for the score.
In the first half, Utah went on a 12-0 run starting at 13:27 with David Jackson's only bucket of the half and capped by Doleac's three-point play to build a 20-7 lead with less than 10 minutes left.
The Utes, who led by as much as 31-16 with about two minutes remaining, did not allow the Miners to get closer than 10 points the rest of the way as they held UTEP to a cold 8 of 27 from the field to go up 31-19 at the half.
"We thought they would come out a lot tougher after the way they played us at our place," said Miller.
Utah beat UTEP 62-56 on Jan. 29 in Salt Lake City.