The Utah basketball team gets its final tune-up tonight (at 7) when it takes on Northwest Nazarene at the Huntsman Center.
The Utes hope to have a similar outcome to last week's exhibition game against Montana Tech, which the Utes won 83-40, and nothing like what happened to coach Jim Boylen's old team.
Michigan State, where Boylen was an assistant the past two years, was knocked off by a NCAA Division II school, Grand Valley State, in an exhibition game over the weekend.
Boylen expects the Utes to face a tougher game against Northwest Nazarene, an NCAA Division II school of 1,200 undergraduates located in Nampa, Idaho.
"From what we know, they're a disciplined half-court team that plays man-to-man, is a better running team and bigger (than Montana Tech)," Boylen said.
Boylen said the Utes had a good weekend of practice and he plans to go with the same starting lineup of Luke Nevill at center, Shaun Green and Stephen Weigh at forwards and Tyler Kepkay and Lawrence Borha on the guardline. Johnnie Bryant and Kim Tillie will be the first reserves off the bench.
"Defensively we need to continue to grow," Boylen said. "We have to improve our defensive foundation and also our rebounding."
After tonight's game, the Utes have just two days to prepare for the official season opener Friday against South Carolina Upstate.
Next week the Utes travel to Seattle for the Preseason NIT Tournament, where they'll take on High Point (N.C.) Tuesday night at the University of Washington. The following night they'll play either Washington or the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
NO SUU: A noticeable absence on the Ute schedule is Southern Utah, which has played at the Huntsman Center for the past eight seasons and 10 of the past 11.
Are the Utes afraid to play Southern Utah because of last year's stunning 76-73 upset in the opening game of the season?
Not at all.
"We wanted to play them, but they didn't want to play," Boylen said. "I don't know why."
One reason for the change could be that the T-Birds have a new coach this year in Roger Reid, who might prefer not to play where he's not popular.
However, the T-Birds are playing at Utah State this Friday and at BYU on Dec. 21.
RESPECT: One thing fans may notice different about this year's team is that the Ute players and coaches will be on the floor for the national anthem. In the past, at least under the past two coaches, Ute teams would head to the locker room during the national anthem.
"We'll be staying out for the national anthem," Boylen said.
"It's a respectful thing to do. We've had 21 people from Utah die during the war."More than a third of the Ute players are not Americans, including Australians Nevill and Weigh, Tillie of France, Kepkay of Canada and Luke Drca of Serbia. However only the U.S. national anthem will be played before home games.
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