Runnin? Utes not easing up for Wildcats

By By Joseph Simmons

By Joseph Simmons

The Runnin’ Utes will look to defeat the second in-state rival on their schedule when they face the Weber State Wildcats tonight, but this time they’ll have to do it on the road.

Weber State (1-4) will be looking for its first big win of the season against the Utes (3-3), and Utah head coach Jim Boylen said he knows the Wildcats have a dangerous team and are better than their record shows.

“They’re a quick team, and they’ve got a bunch of athletes,” Boylen said. “They’ll be a tough test for us.”

Both teams are coming off recent losses and hope to get back on track with a victory. For the Wildcats, the game will be their second consecutive shot at upsetting an in-state rival, with their last game being an 87-70 loss to BYU.

The Utes, on the other hand, are looking to bounce back after an up-and-down trip to Las Vegas, which ended with a 77-55 loss to Oklahoma State in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament. The final two games of the tournament8212;which included an upset of No. 20 Illinois in the semifinal, followed by the blowout defeat the next night8212;illustrate what Boylen said is his team’s greatest problem right now: consistency.

“We have to get better at being consistent on both ends of the floor,” Boylen said. “At times we’ve been great on offense, and at times we’ve been great on defense, but we need to get better in both areas.”

The Utes will no doubt benefit offensively and defensively from the return of junior forward Jay Watkins, who showed his value coming off the bench in the Las Vegas tournament. Watkins averaged 13 points and six rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game during the tournament. This gives the Utes another big contributor off the bench to go with Shawn Glover, Jason Washburn, Jordan Cyphers, Jace Tavita and Matt Read.

From Utah’s starting five, Carlon Brown will lead the Ute offense against the Wildcats, with help from Luka Drca. Brown is Utah’s top scorer, averaging 13.2 points per game, and Drca leads the team in assists, with 4.5 per game.

Weber State’s Damian Lillard will be the Utes’ greatest defensive challenge. Lillard leads the Wildcats in both points per game with 19.4 and in assists per game with 2.4. Wildcat big man Steve Panos is the team’s leading rebounder, averaging 5.4 per game.

Even though the Utes have won their past eight games against the Wildcats, Boylen said that his team isn’t taking them lightly.

“They’re much better than their 1-4 record would indicate,” Boylen said.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center in Ogden. The game will not be televised but will be broadcast on KALL 700AM.

[email protected]