Utah- Pepperdine: Game Preview

The Utes take a two game winning streak into the game against a desperate Pepperdine team..

Facts and Factors

The Utah men's basketball team (5-2) returns to its home floor Tuesday looking to secure its second three-game win streak of the season as the Runnin' Utes host Pepperdine (3-6). Tip-off at the Jon M. Huntsman Center is slated for 7 p.m. MT.

Utah is coming off an eight-point road win at Bradley as the Utes topped the Braves, 68-60. Utah put forth one of its best defensive efforts of the season, holding BU to just 32.8% on its home floor, which helped overcome a tough night at the free throw line that saw the Utes shoot a season-low 54.5% (24-of-44).

Utah junior wing Will Clyburn logged his second double-double of the season in the win, finishing with 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. The double-double was secured by halftime as he entered the break with 10 points and 11 boards. He is averaging 19.9 points per game, second-best in the Mountain West Conference, to go with 8.6 boards, which also ranks second in the league.

Junior guard Josh Watkins was the team's leading scorer in the win with a career-high 23 points.

Pepperdine is coming off an 86-81 home loss to UT-San Antonio. Keion Bell was the Waves' top scorer and rebounder with 31 points and seven boards. Lorne Jackson also chipped in 22 points and five rebounds. Bell is Pepperdine's leading scorer at 25.3 points per game to go with 4.1 rebounds. Mychel Thompson is second on the list at 14.3 points and a team-leading 5.3 boards per contest.

Utah is 4-1 at home this season, while Pepperdine is 1-3 on the road.

The last time these two teams met, Pepperdine captured a 76-64 victory in Malibu, Calif., last season. The Waves' win had snapped a five-game Utah winning streak in the series. The Utes leads the overall series, 5-2, including a 3-0 record in Salt Lake City.

Utah head coach Jim Boylen, now in his fourth year at the helm for the Utes, owns a 61-44 (.581) record. Pepperdine is coached by Tom Asbury, now in his second stint at the helm for the Waves, who holds a combined 144-112 (.605) mark in his ninth year.

The Game

The Waves of Pepperdine have struggled thus far on the season to a 3 and 6 mark despite playing a lackluster schedule to this point. They're just not a very good ‘team.' Keion Bell is a freak. His leaping ability may be unparalled in the country as he's shown in practice that he can jump over four guys with ease. That athleticism has translated well to the court as he's been tough to stop, averaging over 25 points per game. While he has had some off the court issues, including being suspended prior to the season, Bell is an elite player and a future NBA talent.

Mychel Thompsen, the son of former NBA #1 pick, Mychal Thompson is Pepperdine's second leading scorer and leading rebounder from the small forward spot. The senior is a very versatile player who has improved steadily during his time in Malibu and is going to give a consistent effort on a night in and night out basis. He's averaging over 14 a game while pulling down 5+ rebounds, and will get the unenviable task of slowing down Will Clyburn.

Will Clyburn cannot be stopped. He's looking like not only the best JC transfer in the country this year, but arguably the top newcomer in the country as well (although I'm pretty high on Terrence Jones at Kentucky). Averaging just under 20 points per game and over 8.5 rebounds, he looks like he could give BYU's Jimmer Fredette a run for the MWC Player of the Year by year's end.

Point guard Jiggy Watkins has continued his impressive play so far this season, putting up 23 points in the last contest against Bradley, a career high.

Shawn Glover was impressive coming off the bench against Bradley scoring 9 points in only 17 minutes while grabbing 6 rebounds. Glover could see extended playing time against Pepperdine and going forward.

Utah has struggled from three point land, while Pepperdine has thrived knocking down close to 40% of their attempts as a three. If Pepperdine is to have any chance in this game, it needs to hold Utah at or around 25% while making 40%+ of their own three pointers.

Prediction

Pepperdine really is nothing more than a one man show. Even if Bell gets hot and goes for 30, the Waves just don't have the horses to stay with Utah. Will Clyburn will put up ANOTHER double double as the Utes turn a close game at the half into a double digit win, extending their winning streak to three.
Utah 81 Pepperdine 66

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