Utes hope to break Logan losing streak

It will be a season of firsts for Ute head coach Ray Giacoletti. Saturday in Logan he gets his first taste of a big rivalry, as the 4-1 Utes take on 4-1 Utah State at 4 p.m.

“I’ve never been to Logan,” Giacoletti said. “But from what I hear, it’s not an easy place to play.”

That may be an understatement from a Ute fan perspective. The U has come up short in their last three trips to Cache Valley, with their last victory coming in 1996.

“It’s a tough environment to play in,” Ute point guard Tim Drisdom said. “It’s a college town so they have a lot of fan support.”

This will be the 217th meeting between the two schools, with Utah owning a 127-89 edge.

The Aggies are coming off a big 71-57 win Wednesday evening versus BYU. A late 16-3 run blew open a close game, as Aggie center Nate Harris matched a career high with 26 points.

Harris leads USU in scoring at 12.8 points per game, and is second on the team in rebounds with 5.2. The junior earned the Big West Conference sixth man of the year award last season.

Aggie coach Stew Morrill is in his seventh season in charge of USU and has compiled a 147-47 record. He has never lost to Utah in Logan.

The Utes are coming off an intrastate warm up. The U cruised to a 65-45 victory against Southern Utah Tuesday night, in a game that raised a few warning flags.

“We turned the ball over more than we wanted to,” Drisdom said. “But that’s something we can fix.”

The Utes will need to fix the problem in a hurry if they wish to come out of Logan with a victory.

The 20 turnovers vs. SUU were a season high. Giacoletti thinks that statistic will prove to be an aberration.

“Hopefully you won’t see us turn it over that much the rest of the year.” Giacoletti said. “That will be the one thing we will work on in practice.”

Turnovers are one statistic in which the Utes and Aggies differ. While the Utes average 16.4 per game, USU has managed to give the ball away only 11.8 times per contest, including only nine in the BYU game.

While the Utes have been a bit sloppy with the ball, they have enjoyed a definite size advantage in all of their games, and thus have had a big edge in rebounds. The U has out-rebounded the opposition by 9.4 rebounds per game.

USU could give the Utes their first real challenge in this department.

For the first time, the Ute starters will lineup against a frontcourt with two starters taller than 6-foot-7. While they haven’t been as dominant around the glass as the Utes, the Aggies tout a 4.8 rebounding advantage over their opponents.

This will be a key game for Utah if they hope to keep the Old Oquirrh Bucket. The trophy is given to the college basketball team that has the most in-state success against Utah basketball schools. The competing teams include Utah, USU, BYU, SUU, and Weber State. The Utes have brought home the bucket the last two seasons, and already are 1-0 in this year’s standings with the win versus SUU.

Tip off for USU is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday, and will be televised live on KJZZ-TV Channel 14.

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