Utes hope to kick some Aztec

After losing three of its last four games, the U basketball team goes into its season finale against San Diego State with absolutely no implications left in the conference race.

The Utes are locked into the third-place spot and even if they lose, Utah will be tied with UNLV, but a season sweep of the Rebels gives the Utes the tiebreaker.

So why does it matter if the Utes win?

“We need to win this game and try to go into the conference tournament with some confidence,” U center Tim Frost said.

The confidence issue is a major question with a team that was looking to make a run at the top spot in the conference, but is going to go into the conference tournament with a third seed.

However, a win over San Diego State will give the Utes some type of confidence heading into the tournament.

Even though the Aztecs are sixth in the conference, they pose a dangerous threat to the Utes, considering that they almost beat Utah at the Huntsman Center and the Utes are not a very good road team.

Utah is 5-5 on the road this season with critical losses against BYU and Wyoming coming down the stretch of the conference race.

Not only are the Utes just .500 on the road, but they had to make a comeback to beat the Aztecs at home.

The Utes were down at halftime against the Aztecs, but a 10-0 run, led by senior Nick Jacobson, gave the Utes a solid lead and the team held on until the end.

But that type of comeback should not be expected on the road.

The Aztecs have only lost three games at home this season, with only one coming against a conference opponent, which was a loss to conference-leader Air Force.

San Diego State even took down BYU at home and now have their sights set on Utah in order to move up in the conference standings.

If the Aztecs defeat the Utes, then they will probably move up to fifth and may matchup against UNLV instead of Utah in the first round of the conference tournament.

The Aztecs have a very athletic team, led on the outside by freshman Brandon Heath and junior Wesley Stokes.

Heath had 14 points against the Utes in their last meeting and is deadly from beyond the arc.

He is shooting almost 30 percent from the three-point line and 12 of his 14 points against Utah came from long distance.

Stokes leads a tough pressure defense, as he leads the league with 1.61 steals per game.

But it’s not as if the Aztecs don’t have an inside presence. Senior Aerick Sanders cannot match up with the size the Utes have in the center, but his athleticism and power have carried him throughout the entire year.

He is sixth in scoring in the conference with 15.9 points per game and is tied for second in rebounds with 9.9 per game.

He only had 10 points against the Utes, because of the size of Frost and Andrew Bogut. The two Ute centers outsize any other centers in the conference.

But Chris Walton made up for the lack of scoring from Sanders with a team-high 15 points.

For the Utes, Jacobson and sophomore Richard Chaney led the team with 16 and 17 points, respectively.

Bogut was quiet with a three for-eleven night.

Regardless of what happened at the Huntsman Center, the game completely changes on the road.

But it’s all a matter of what type of confidence the team comes out with, considering that the game really doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of the conference picture.

Either way, the Utes will probably have to win the conference title to earn a berth into the NCAAs.

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