Facts and Factors
The Utah men's basketball team (7-8, 0-1 MWC) takes on sixth-ranked and undefeated San Diego State (16-0, 1-0 MWC) Saturday at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. MT and the game will be televised live on VERSUS Network.
The Utes, who return home for the first time since defeating Boise State, 86-84 on Dec. 17, are 6-1 this season at the Huntsman Center. Since that victory, Utah has suffered a five-game losing streak, which includes three road contests and two neutral-site games. In their last action, the Utes took a 77-69 loss in their Mountain West Conference opener at Air Force on Wednesday.
Junior wing Will Clyburn remains Utah's leading scorer and rebounder at 18.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, ranking No. 2 in the MWC in each category. He is coming off a 16-point, six-rebound performance at Air Force. Joining Clyburn in double-figures against the Falcons was junior guard Chris Kupets, who posted a career-high performance for the second straight game, putting up new career bests in points (25), field goals (10) and 3-pointers (5).
San Diego State is unbeaten this season, including a 5-0 record on the road. In their last action, the Aztecs won their conference-opener at TCU, taking a 66-53 win.
The Aztecs are led offensively by Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 15.6 points per game and an MWC-best 9.7 rebounds per contest. Joining Leonard in double-figure point production are Malcolm Thomas (12.0), D.J. Gay (11.4) and Billy White (10.1). Gay is the leading assist-man with 3.3 per game.
Utah head coach Jim Boylen, now in his fourth year at the helm for the Utes, owns a 63-50 (.558) record. He returns to the bench against the Aztecs after missing the Air Force game due to an illness in his family. SDSU is led by Steve Fisher, who is now in his 12th season. Fisher owns a 214-149 (.590) record as the Aztecs' head coach.
Utah played exactly like the team that they are against Air Force (average), until the last two minutes (poor), and it cost them the game. They'll need to play like the 98 NCAA runner up to beat San Diego State who comes in undefeated at 16-0 and off to their best start in program history. Knocking down threes and taking care of the ball is going to be a premium against a team like San Diego State that makes you work very hard for every basket.
Will Clyburn is going to have his work cut out for him again after struggling against Air Force and relying too much on the three point shot. He must have taken 6 or 7 threes in the second half alone on Wednesday in route to a 6 for 14 performance from the field. Quality shots and controlled play are not always Clyburn's strong suits. They'll need to be against San Deigo State.
Chris Kupets has been a star the past couple of games, with back to back 20+ point games while making 9 of his last 13 three point attempts. If Utah wants to win, they're going to need a strong performance out of a bench player and Kupets is likely to be that guy. 20 points again is unrealistic to expect, but chipping in 10 – 14 would go a long ways towards helping spring the upset.
Is San Diego State a realistic national title contender? Probably not, but this is the type of team that should get into the sweet 16 and could make a run at an elite 8 spot. They've played a decent schedule with wins over Gonzaga, St. Mary's, Cal, and Wichita State. They're very disciplined and well coached by Steve Fisher who has a national title to his credit while coaching at Michigan. The Aztecs are deep, with 10 guys averaging 8 minutes a game or more. They own almost every single advantage over the Utes in the stats department.
Dear Jim Boylen,
If you want to save your job, here's your best chance at doing so. Beat a top 10 conference opponent and that will go a long way to determining how the rest of the season plays out and can help in your bid to return next year as the basketball coach at Utah.
This is going to get ugly. SDSU has the most athletic team in the conference, the best defense in the conference, and is a team that creates a lot of points off of miscues. The Utes love miscues averaging almost 14 a game. The defense will overpower and shutdown Will Clyburn holding him well below his average. Kawhi Leonard will go for 15+ while the Aztecs get fairly balanced scoring with 6 players in double figures, running the Utes out of the gym by halftime in a listless effort. Jim Boylen's seat will go from hot to Satan's throne.
San Diego State 81 Utah 60
Utah vs San Diego State- Game Preview
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