Out of the frying pan?

The Runnin’ Utes will have to accomplish two of the hardest tasks in sports on Saturday when they head to California for a 1 p.m. game with San Diego State.

Coming off an emotionally charged blowout victory over BYU on Wednesday, the Utes (11-10, 4-6 MWC) will make a quick turnaround and try not to have a letdown against the Aztecs.

What makes the situation even tougher is the fact that SDSU (16-6, 9-1 MWC) is in first place in the conference and has won eight straight-including a BYU blowout of its own, an 88-61 smashing at Cox Arena three weeks ago.

But the Utes are confident that they can put the BYU win behind them and get their minds on track for the duel with SDSU.

“I’m so excited about the (BYU) win,” Ute guard Chris Grant said. “(But) we’ll have our energy for San Diego.”

The Aztecs have been on a tear lately and are coming off a 61-51 win Wednesday against Air Force. They have already beaten the Utes once this season, a 72-67 win at the Huntsman Center that served as the starting point in their recent surge.

After having been picked by the media during the preseason to win the MWC, the Aztecs are on the verge of just that, but they know they need to keep their focus in order to avoid an upset down the stretch.

“We walk that line,” Aztec coach Steve Fisher said. “We need to prove that we are a good basketball team, and from the wins we have a little swagger. But we must be able to manage ourselves because we have a tough game against Utah on Saturday.”

The Aztecs feature a dominating inside presence led by forward Marcus Slaughter and center Mohamed Abukar. Slaughter had 16 points and 15 rebounds in the win over Air Force, with eight of his boards coming on the offensive glass. Abukar, a transfer from Florida, has averaged 13.1 points per game since becoming eligible at the start of spring semester. The Aztecs are 10-2 with him in the lineup.

The Utes have won three of their last four and will have two-straight home games after their trip to San Diego. Colorado State visits the Huntsman Center on Wednesday and Air Force comes to Salt Lake City on Saturday. Both games are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.

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