Runnin’ Utes set to tipoff 100th season

In 1908, Runnin’ Ute basketball was born. One hundred years later first-year head coach Jim Boylen is looking to help the Utes become reborn. His journey begins tonight as the Utes play host to South Carolina Upstate in the season-opener for both teams.

Fittingly, as the Utes open up their 100th season of Utah basketball, Boylen will attempt to establish his career with the Utes by using the same principles — primarily defense, toughness and smart play — that coaches like Vadal Peterson, Jack Gardner and Rick Majerus used to build up Utah’s basketball program in the past.

“I’ve got to give my staff credit,” Boylen said. “We’ve got to establish the foundation and change the culture. I guarantee we’re making some baby steps to do that, but we’ve got to keep working at it.”

Based upon Boylen’s rigerous practices and the pair of exhibition games the Runnin’ Utes hosted, the Utes are taking baby steps in the right direction, which is all the Utes’ first-year head coach is asking for.

“My motto in there is get better every day,” Boylen said. “In a win, in a loss, in a tight game, in a wide margin, we’ve got to get better every day.”

The Utes will begin the process of eliminating what Boylen calls “crucial mental lapses” against a USC Upstate team that is playing in its first game as a Division-I school.

“We got to stop, at times in the game, giving somebody something they didn’t earn because we missed a loose ball or because we didn’t cut out or run the lane,” Boylen said. “That’s what we’ve got to build on.”

Luke Nevill, on the other hand, will be playing yet another opponent that has nothing to offer in terms of a comparably-sized big man.

In the Utes’ exhibition series against the likes of Montana Tech and Northwest Nazarene, Nevill dominated the opposing undersized centers and generated a 17.5-point scoring average on 76.4 percent shooting.

Although Nevill’s offensive numbers are nice, Boylen is still looking for more from his 7-foot-1 junior. And it has nothing to with putting the ball in the basket.

Boylen is asking his center to shoulder more responsibility in the team’s wins and losses — something the Aussie-center has taken to heart.

“I played pretty good last year, but our team was unsuccessful, so I was unsuccessful,” Nevill said.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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