Battle of the basement

Ordinarily, the Runnin’ Utes would be licking their chops when a team like TCU (5-15, 1-5 MWC) came calling to the Huntsman Center. They could jump out to a big lead early and put in the youngsters and walk-ons in the second half on a breezy afternoon.

But this is no ordinary season. The Utes (8-9, 1-5 MWC) find themselves in the unusually perilous situation of being a loss to the Horned Frogs away from falling into last place in the MWC. Therefore, the U, losers of five straight, will take a win-any win-on Saturday at 1 p.m.

“We need a win in whatever form we can get it,” Ute center Chris Jackson said. “We’ve been practicing hard, and hopefully this will be the week.”

The good news for the Utes is that they will be playing at home, where they have been much stronger than on the road this season, and they will be at full strength.

After missing last weekend’s loss to UNLV due to a suspension, starting forward Bryant Markson returns to the lineup.

“I think if I had been on the court against UNLV, we might have come out with a win,” Markson said. “But everything happens for a reason.”

The versatile Markson will be an important part of the Ute rotation Saturday, with TCU relying on speed and quickness to counterbalance its erratic shooting.

“They’re really athletic,” Giacoletti said. “They press a lot. They don’t shoot very well from the field, but they really go rebound it hard.”

The Frogs are 0-9 away from home this season but put up a good showing in an overtime loss at BYU on Wednesday. Everything TCU does offensively runs through senior guard Nile Murray, who averages 16.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.05 steals per game. Sophomore Brett Hackett is the only other Frog that averages double-digit points, posting 11.0 points per game.

If the Utes can contain the slashing Frog guards, they might be able to pull out the win and, perhaps, pull out of their tailspin.

“It’s a big game,” Markson said. “I think it’s our game to turn around (the season) if we can get this win at the house.”

After the TCU contest, the Utes head out on the road for contests against Wyoming on Wednesday and New Mexico next Saturday.

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