Men’s Hoops Faces St. Mary’s Tonight

The first edition of life without center Chris Burgess for the Utah men’s basketball team wasn’t pretty.

Utah played haphazard and unenthused as a lifeless Huntsman Center crowd watched Division III Whitworth threaten the Utes before losing by just six, 63-57.

“As high as we were after Texas [Utah beat the Longhorns 71-61 Dec. 29], we now feel on the other side of the spectrum,” said sophomore and leading scorer Nick Jacobson after the game.

“Everyone played tired. Sometimes it’s hard to get up for a game like [one against a Division III school],” said junior Britton Johnsen. But Johnsen explained maybe it was just what the team needed. “It could be good for us?it shows us that we need another jumpstart,” he said.

Somehow, the U has to find a way to get on the right side of the spectrum, as it has only one more tune-up before Mountain West Conference play begins Jan. 12. Utah visits Moraga, Calif., tonight to challenge St. Mary’s before opening its conference schedule at home against UNLV.

The absence of Burgess and his dominating post presence (he averaged 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game) poses problems at the center position for the U.

“We need a five-man to emerge,” said Jeff Johnsen. Against undersized Whitworth, Utah was outrebounded 32-21 and was outscored in the paint.

Coach Rick Majerus gave the nod at center to sophomore Lance Allred versus Whitworth, but Allred played only 15 minutes and had 4 points and 2 rebounds while picking up 3 fouls. Phil Cullen came off the bench to play a portion of the game at center. Cullen, who plays more like a small forward, scored 6 points and grabbed 4 boards in 19 minutes against Whitworth.

Majerus explained the situation will be looked at game-by-game to replace the fallen center.

Nevertheless, Utah carries a six-game winning streak into the contest with St. Mary’s, which is 5-7 on the year.

St. Mary’s, a member of the West Coast Conference, lost by just 10 points to the New Mexico Lobos in Albuquerque, N.M., at the COMCAST Lobo Classic Dec. 28.

Offensively, the Gaels are led by sophomore Paul Marigney. Although he has only started two games, Marigney has come off the bench to average 11.6 points a game. Ethnie Stubbs, a 6-foot-5 forward, adds 10.3 points a contest. Guard/forward Teohn Conner leads St. Mary’s in rebounding (6.3 per game) and assists (2.5 per game).

For Utah, Jacobson is tops in scoring with 14.9 per game, while shooting 48.6 percent (36-74) from 3-point land. Britton Johnsen averages 11.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while senior Travis Spivey leads the team in assists with 4.8 per game.

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