Utah Utes basketball notebook: Worst ever showing in preseason tourney
HONOLULU — No matter what happened Saturday at the Diamond Head Classic, it would have been Utah's worst-ever finish in an eight-team, early season tournament.
Before playing in Hawaii this week, Utah teams had played in 18 such tournaments since 1956 and never finished worse than sixth. On the other hand, the Utes had never won an eight-team tournament.
With Saturday's 67-64 loss to San Diego, the Utes finished eighth. By winning, they would have finished seventh.
In all those previous tournaments, the Utes finished with a 2-1 record 12 times and a 1-2 mark six times.
Next year the Utes are slated to play in another eight-team tournament, the Cancun Governor's Cup in Mexico.
FIGHT CLUB: An incident just before the start of Thursday's Utah-Hawaii game has made national sports headlines for the past couple of days.
However, fortunately, it didn't involve the Utes.
Two Mississippi State teammates, Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey, got in a fistfight in the stands that involved some serious punches thrown. And the action was not only obvious to fans at the Stan Sheriff Center, but caught by ESPN cameras.
Both players were suspended indefinitely after the outburst, and Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury was apologetic afterwards.
"In my 13 years as head coach, we've never had anything like this happen before," he said. "In no way does it reflect on the overall picture of our program. It's not how we want our men's basketball team to be viewed nationally and is certainly not the conduct we expect of teammates of our program, nor will it be tolerated on any level."
The fight obviously affected the Bulldogs, who came out sluggish and fell behind 12-0 on their way to a 68-57 loss Saturday afternoon.
CHRISTMAS CHEER: You wouldn't think anyone would come out to see a pair of out-of-town teams at 9 a.m. Christmas morning. But there were actually a couple of hundred fans on hand at the Stan Sheriff Center for the Utah-San Diego game early Saturday morning. By the end of the game, the crowd had grown to more than 1,000 as fans for the Hawaii-Mississippi State game started showing up.
BAD RATIO: One of the biggest problems for the Utah basketball team this year, has been a lack of assists and too many turnovers.
The Utes came into the tournament ranked 279th in the country in assist-turnover ratio at .74. They'll certainly fall further in next week's stats after a .41 ratio in three games this week, with 20 assists and 48 turnovers.
Point guard Josh Watkins leads the Utes in both categories with 45 assists and 48 turnovers in 13 games. The worst assist-to-turnover ratios belong to centers Jason Washburn (5-15) and David Foster (6-17).
SOME FUN: Despite the lack of success on the basketball floor, the Utes have been able to have some fun on the trip to Hawaii, the first for all but a couple of players.
On Friday, they played in the water at the North Shore, famous for its surfing, and today, they are planning to visit the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and go snorkeling at Haunama Bay before flying out this evening.
But they'll also spend some extra time watching film and trying to correct some problems before their next game Friday at Portland.
"To go home 0-3 — that takes all the fun out of it," said Jason Washburn.
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