Runnin’ Utes ready to open season against Ball State in renovated Huntsman Center


— Erin Burns

Competing in a college basketball venue is an exciting experience for athletes coming into a new program, but according to Utah big man Dallin Bachynski, nothing compares to competing in the Huntsman Center.
“Playing somebody different when this house [the Huntsman Center] is full, it’s completely different than any practice setting,” Bachynski said.
The Huntsman Center, which can seat up to approximately 15,000 people, has been around since 1969 and has hosted some great games in college basketball history, including the “Dream Match-Up” when Michigan State’s Magic Johnson squared off against Indiana State’s Larry Bird in the 1979 NCAA national championship.
While this venue is well-known and has seen some big games, the new players on this Utah squad have no idea what is coming when they open up the season Friday night against Ball State.
“No matter how big your high school was, it’s not going to compare to the Huntsman Center,” Bachynski said. “Especially being a completely different level of basketball, as well. There’s a little bit of nervousness or anxiety going into it, but it’s exciting as well.”
Much has been made of the most recent renovations in the Huntsman, which include a new court, new lighting and sound systems and a black curtain backdrop for practices and smaller sports. The Runnin’ Utes got a small taste of what things might be like throughout the season during their exhibition game against Pacific.
“A couple of things I noticed that I haven’t noticed since I’ve been here is we turned the lights off for introductions, and then they came back on right away when they chose to turn them on,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Another thing that Coach K liked during the game was not so much about the renovations, but a small tweak by Utah’s band.
“The band has got it cranked up to where there’s a little more percussion up there,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s symbolic, I think, because our student section is kind of the heartbeat of the arena, and when you can feel that bass of that big ole’ drum … That’s a couple of things I noticed that we haven’t seen for a while, and our kids are excited to be playing in this arena.”
On Friday, the Utes will be a little less focused on what’s going on in the crowd and more focused on the court, where they will square off against the Cardinals. Ball State finished last season with just a 5-25 record, but Krystkowiak and the Utes aren’t about to let up now.
“Ball State is a really good team,” Krystkowiak said. “We’re just kinda ready to get going and start counting them.”
Utah and the Cardinals tip-off at 8 p.m. MT on Friday night in the Huntsman Center.
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