Balls out! Runnin’ Utes tip off tonight

The Runnin’ Utes won 29 basketball games last season. Tonight, they will try to win their first in the new season when Texas State comes to the Huntsman Center for the regular-season opener.

The Utes, picked by the media to finish second in the MWC this season, will start a lineup a bit different from the one fans became accustomed to last year.

Seniors Bryant Markson and Tim Drisdom will start at small forward and point guard, respectively. They are the only two who saw considerable starting minutes in the 2004-2005 season.

At center will be senior Chris Jackson, who is 100 percent healthy for the first time in several seasons. He has scored in double digits in both of the Utes’ preseason exhibitions. Junior Jonas Langvad will man the power forward position after bulking up in the offseason.

Joining Drisdom as a starting guard will be sophomore Johnnie Bryant, a JUCO transfer who practiced with the Utes for much of last season. He is expected to fill a similar role to Marc Jackson last season, as a bit of a 1.5 guard hybrid.

Overall, Ute head coach Ray Giacoletti has been pleased with the team’s performance in lopsided exhibition victories over Whitman College and Northwest Nazarene.

“We’ve been solid,” Giacoletti said. “As long as we can focus on boxing out and the other things we can control, we’ll be fine.”

What they will be able to control against the Bobcats is a bit of an unknown.

Like the Utes, Texas State has a wide smattering of new faces and will play as few as two holdovers from last season. In all, the Bobcats have nine newcomers, six true freshmen and three JUCO transfers. The only senior in its starting lineup is 6-foot-4-inch Lance Burroughs, who averaged 4.0 points per game last year.

“They are extremely athletic,” Giacoletti said.

Texas State competes in the Southland Conference and is coming off a 14-14 overall record and an 8-8 conference finish, good for sixth place in the 12-team league.

The Bobcats have played in one exhibition game, a 74-71 win over Division II Angelo State.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at the Huntsman Center.

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