Utes look to conquer road trip

Ruben Douglas scored 39 points last year for New Mexico when it took on the U basketball team, as the Lobos defeated the then-No. 22 Utes. Now, the Utes have their chance for redemption Saturday in Albuquerque, this time with a nine-game winning streak on the line.

Douglas has graduated, but a new scorer has taken his place, one who could potentially cause the same problems that Douglas did last season.

“They may not have Ruben Douglas, but Danny Granger is a player you may not have heard of, but he is a great player that can score like Douglas did,” U shooting guard Nick Jacobson said.

Granger is currently averaging 20.7 points per game-the highest average on the team-but he can’t yet be ranked among MWC scorers because he has only played nine games.

The Lobos are currently 9-6 overall and have already lost two conference games to Wyoming and Air Force. Both games were on the road, but now the Lobos get to play at The Pit against the Utes.

Playing outside the Huntsman Center has been one of the main problems for Utah this season, giving this weekend’s game added importance.

“It’s a tough road swing for us, but we just have to focus on one game at a time,” U point guard Tim Drisdom said.

Not only do the Utes have to worry about the Lobos, but Monday they will have to play Air Force in the second game of the road trip.

“Because we only have one day to prepare for the Falcons, we might start a little early on them,” sophomore Richard Chaney said.

The preparation for Air Force may take some focus away from the Lobos game, but Jacobson knows that they cannot falter mentally.

“The Air Force game is two games away and we can’t really worry about that now,” Jacobson said. “We are going to play New Mexico and that’s what we are going to focus on.”

According to Chaney, the Utes will have to worry about the zone defense against New Mexico, which may force the Utes to hit more outside shots.

Jacobson has been connecting from the perimeter lately and is leading the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game.

But the inside presence of freshman Andrew Bogut and senior Tim Frost is still a big key for the team, especially on the glass.

“We have had trouble offensive rebounding and we need to worry about that,” Drisdom said.

Bogut is leading the team with 9.8 rebounds per game and has also shown his defensive prowess inside with a team-leading 18 blocks.

Bogut will have to go up against Granger some of the time when the Utes play man-to-man defense.

Last season, the reason Douglas was able to get so many points was that he was constantly at the foul line. He hit 26 free throws, which was a school record. The guards for the Utes must do a good job of stopping the Lobos’ penetration.

This season, the Utes are second in the nation in scoring defense, which partly has to do with the style of offense that the team has.

Besides Granger, the Lobos have an outside threat in Javin Tindall, who is currently first in the conference with 2.8 three-pointers made per game.

“They have struggled this season but we know they have great players,” Jacobson said.

The Utes come in with plenty of confidence and several advantages, and have a chance to extend their winning streak to 10 this Saturday.

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