Utah at TCU- Game Preview

The Utes travel to Fort Worth looking to extend their winning streak to 3...

Facts and Factors

The Utah men's basketball team (9-10, 2-3 MWC) will look to capture its third straight conference game Saturday as the Runnin' Utes head to Fort Worth, Texas, to take on TCU (10-10, 1-4 MWC) at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. Tip-off is slated for 5 p.m. CT and the game will be televised live on The Mtn.

Utah is coming off an 82-72 victory against New Mexico, a game that saw the Utes stretch their lead to as many as 20 points (70-50) in the second half. Junior guard Josh "Jiggy" Watkins scored a game-high 22 while freshman wing J.J. O'Brien notched his second double-double, which included a career-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds. Sophomore wing Shawn Glover also chipped in 12 points. It was Utah's second consecutive victory after taking a 68-51 win at Wyoming last week.

Junior wing Will Clyburn remains Utah's leading scorer and rebounder at 18.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, ranking No. 2 in the MWC in each category. Watkins is leading the Utes in assists with 3.4 per game, while junior center David Foster leads the team and the MWC in blocks, with 2.9 per contest.

TCU has lost two straight and six of its last seven games. In their last outing, the Horned Frogs fell at BYU, 83-67. The Frogs' lone conference victory came in their last home game as they posted a 78-60 win against Wyoming.

TCU is led offensively by junior guard Ronnie Moss, who averages 15.9 points per game. The Frogs' leading rebounder is J.R. Cadot at 6.2 boards per game, while Hank Thorns is their leading assist-man at 6.1 helpers per game.

The Utes hold an all-time record of 14-4 (.778) against the Frogs, including a 4-2 (.667) mark on TCU's home court. Utah has won five straight games in the series, including two consecutive meetings in Forth Worth. The Utes are 2-5 on the road this year, while the Frogs are 8-2 at home.

Utah head coach Jim Boylen, now in his fourth year at the helm for the Utes, owns a 65-52 (.556) record. TCU is coached by Jim Christian, now in his third season, who owns an 37-46 (.446) record as the Frogs' head coach.

The Game

Is Utah really up to a tie for fourth in the conference standings? Just a week ago that seemed inconceivable (insert Princess Bride joke here).

On the backs of Jiggy Watkins and J.J. O'Brien, they dominated a highly regarded New Mexico team. The true freshman O'Brien had his best game as a Ute with 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Lobos, while Watkins pitched in 22, for this fourth straight game of 16 or more points.

With star forward Will Clyburn limited to a season low 27 minutes and only 8 points due mostly to foul trouble, the Utes moved the ball with efficiency on offense and played their most complete game of the season.

Has Clyburn hit a wall, or have he and the coaches realized that the team is more effective when Will isn't taking 15+ shots per game? His scoring numbers are down in league play compared to the non-conference schedule. Maybe playing a gluttonous number of minutes per game is finally starting to take its toll.

TCU has had its fair share of big wins this year knocking off the likes of Houston, USC, and Texas Tech. A mediocre Utah team won't leave them shaking in their boots in any way.

Ronnie Moss is hands down TCU's best player. The athletic guard comes in averaging over 15 points per game. Keeping him in check and limiting his open looks will go a long ways towards Utah winning the game. He's also a very good distributor of the ball. The less he has it, the better.

Statistically these teams are very evenly matched scoring the same number of points per game (71.3) and giving up close to the same number of points per game (71.8 for Utah and 70.3 for TCU). TCU does hold a significant advantage in the assist department with almost 5 more per game than the Utes.

Prediction

How can I not pick the Utes to win after those two tremendous performances? Call this the kiss of death. TCU's lack size inside is going to exploited by the Utes as Washburn and Foster combine to have their best game of the year. Clyburn will dominate the boards and get his 18+. Jiggy won't have the same game he's had the past few in the scoring column, but will close in on double digit assists as he feeds the big guys inside. A late TCU run will make it interesting, but Watkins, Clyburn, and Kupets at the free throw line down the stretch will seal it for the Utes.

Utah 77 TCU 71

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