Utes look to bounce back against Cal

By By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

Round two of the Fab Four starts tonight for Jim Boylen’s Runnin’ Utes.

After losing to a 1-5 Idaho State squad, the 5-2 Utes look to rebound against the California Golden Bears, who are coming off a tough loss themselves. Cal is one of the four teams dubbed as Utah’s Fab Four non-conference opponents, which also includes Oregon8212;which Utah beat 95-81 on Dec. 38212;Gonzaga and LSU.

Both Cal and Utah are coming off their second loss of the season. The Utes failed to complete a second- half comeback against Idaho State, losing 72-68, while Cal bowed to the Missouri Tigers in an unimpressive 93-66 loss.

“We get to kind of redeem ourselves a little bit from the loss that we just had,” said Ute forward Shaun Green. “It’s another big team, another big game coming into our arena and we just need to try to get the winning tradition back.”

The Utes will go without starting point guard Luka Drca, who is expected to miss 10 days after spraining his ankle in Utah’s loss to the Bengals on Saturday. Head coach Jim Boylen has decided to give freshman guard Jace Tavita the nod to start against Cal on Wednesday, leaving senior scorer Tyler Kepkay in his role coming off the bench.

“It’s tough, (Drca’s) a great player,” said center Luke Nevill. “He’s big for his position, he can see the floor, he can handle the ball, so it’s a tough loss. But we have guys that can step up, guys that can fill his shoes till he comes back.”

The Utes and Golden Bears had a similar box score in their losses. The Bears shot 35 percent from the field, were outrebounded and couldn’t come back from an 11-point first-half deficit. The Utes were also down by 11 at the half, were outrebounded and shot a mere 40 percent from the field.

Last year, the Utes stunned the Golden Bears by giving them their first loss at home. Shaun Green made the game-winning basket with 1.4 seconds left on the clock to steal the game for the Utes, 67-65. You can bet that Cal will be looking for redemption on the Utes’ home floor.

“This is a team that is going to come in here with a lot of confidence,” Boylen said. “We beat them last year, so obviously they know that. A lot of those players are back and they’ll be ready for us.”

The Golden Bears feature a talented trio of players who will each bring his own dose of athleticism against Utah.

Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson are three of the best players the Pac-10 features this season, and head coach Mike Montgomery has used his plethora of talent fairly well this season.

Although the Utes didn’t win the battle on the boards against Idaho State, they are confident they can get the job done against Cal. The Utes are averaging eight more rebounds per game than their opponents, while Cal is pulling down six more than their opponents.

“We are a good rebounding team. We have all the tools to outrebound our opponents, we just have to do it,” said Nevill, who is leading the Utes in rebounding with nine per game.

One thing is for sure8212;the Golden Bears are a run-and-gun team8212;like Pac-10 counterpart Oregon8212;that likes to control the tempo of the game. They have big wings that will score from the perimeter and a big post player who can score in the paint. Boylen has said time and again that he prefers the half-court offense, in which his team will find good, high-percentage shots. Utah is shooting 50 percent from the field this season, so it seems to be working.

The game will be played tonight at 6 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.

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Tyler Cobb

Jim Boylen and the Utes take on California Golden Bears this week. The Golden Bears are considered one of Utahs ?fab four? non-conference opponenets.