Utes on the rebound

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

After getting dumped by Southern Utah in their season-opener at the Huntsman Center last Friday night, the Utes will try their best to bounce back against Santa Clara.

Utah heads out on the road for the first time this season tomorrow night, taking its show to California to face the Broncos.

But with the Broncos looming in the distance, the U’s biggest concern is still itself.

“The first couple of days, as always, we need to take care of our own stuff and make sure we’re good with everything,” U head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “Especially after Friday’s game, we went back to work on a few things.”

For the most part, Giacoletti has devoted this week’s practices to the fine art of defense. Perimeter defense, in particular, proved to be the Achilles’ heel for the Utes, as they allowed numerous contested shots to drop through the net throughout their last game.

But now, after a week chock-full of defensive work, coach Giacoletti and the Utes feel they are ready.

“We’re a lot better than we were,” Giacoletti said. “Everybody has a better understanding of what we need to do. We’ve tweaked what we need to depending on personnel and now we’re ready to play.”

The Utes will try to use what they have learned in Santa Clara tomorrow night against a Broncos squad that is coming off an opening-night blowout win over Holy Names.

Santa Clara used a plethora of scoring options to batter Holy Names into submission in an easy 83-51 victory.

Junior forward Mitch Henke led the Broncos and recorded the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Fellow big-man Sean Denison also pitched in 12 points for Santa Clara, while 7-foot center Josh Higgins scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

The Utes will have their hands full down low trying to stop all of Bronco coach Dick Davey’s bruising options, a problem they have yet to face this season.

Meanwhile, the Broncos also have a host of options to call upon in the backcourt. Junior guard Brody Angley leads Santa Clara from the point this year, after averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 assists per game last year.

Returning shooting guard Calvin Johnson should also help the Broncos on the wing after averaging 6.4 points per game in 2005-2006. Johnson is just one of four starters who are returning from a team that finished with a 13-16 record.

“We are returning a veteran group this year, and that experience will be a major plus,” said Santa Clara coach Dick Davey. “If we can stay healthy, this group has the potential to be one of the better teams that we have had here in a long time.”

That experience is matched by the Utes, who also have four starters returning after a sub-par 14-15 season last year.

Despite dropping the first game of the year, coach Ray Giacoletti remains optimistic about his young team.

“We just needed to fix a few things,” Giacoletti said. “We have to stay on the same page as one another. If four guys know what’s going on, but the fifth doesn’t, we’re in trouble. But overall, I think we accomplished what we set out to do this week.”

Lennie Mahler

Luke Nevill goes for a shot as he is fouled by SUU’s Junior Abrahao in the Utes’ Nov. 10 loss at the Hunstman Center.