Men’s Hoops: Runnin’ Utes look to avenge SDSU loss

Given the time of year, reminiscing on old times and things that could have been isn’t too uncommon. For the U men’s basketball team, the phrase “the one that got away” doesn’t apply to a woman, but a particular basketball game.

Exactly one month after letting a prime opportunity to pick up a road win slip through their fingers with an overtime loss to San Diego State, the Runnin’ Utes will get a chance at settling the score. They’ll also have the chance to represent nostalgic memories for some of the best players ever to play at the U.

Names that are synonymous with the eras they played in — like Arnie Ferrin, Tom Chambers, Andre Miller and Andrew Bogut — will all be on hand for Saturday’s game as the U basketball team continues to celebrate its 100 birthday by introducing the recently unveiled All-Century team.

And if the Utes haven’t learned to prepare themselves better than the last time they faced the Aztecs, fans and Ute legends will also be introduced to Lorenzo Wade.

Wade, whose jaw-dropping windmill dunk highlighted a 20-point, eight-rebound performance the last time these two teams met, seems to be one of the only hot things remaining from the Aztecs’ sizzling 4-0 start to conference play.

San Diego State is just 2-4 after that start, and are currently in the middle of their second two-game losing streak in three weeks.

Johnnie Bryant and the Utes, on the other hand, seem to have traded places with San Diego State.

“We’re competing better, which is so important at this level,” Boylen said.

After starting the MWC season 2-4, the Utes have reeled off three straight and are poised to pass the Aztecs for fourth place with a win tomorrow afternoon. After averaging 21.5 points in the pair of crucial Ute wins last week, Bryant was named MWC Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks. Bryant will need to keep that kind of play up if he is going to ease his coach’s mind.

“Johnnie’s got to play, everybody’s got to play,” Boylen said. “It’s a big week for us.”

The major concern for U head coach Jim Boylen is how his team will handle its recent success against yet another tough conference opponent.

“Handling success, being ready to play, we’ve got a lot to play for,” Boylen said. “We’re in the hunt. Very important game Saturday.”

It will also be interesting to see if the Utes are able to quickly knock off any rust that might have accumulated during their seven-day layoff. The other interesting component of Saturday’s game will be the type of urgency the Utes play with at home.

After Saturday, Utah plays in the Huntsman Center just once in the next four games and twice over their final six games of the season.

“What I try to do in an off week is make my team better,” Boylen said. “Rest is important this time of year, but I think it’s a time where you’ve got to gut it out and get through it. We’re in a very competitive race. I think that we can keep moving up if we play well and I think we’re getting better.”

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Tyler Cobb

Johnnie Bryant and the Utes let one slip away at San Diego State earlier this year, losing 62-54 in overtime. They will get their chance at redemption tomorrow night at the Huntsman Center.