Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Almost a week ago, the Utah men's basketball team wasn't able to beat the team picked for a last-place finish in the West Coast Conference on a neutral floor.
Tonight, the Utes will see if they can defeat one of the better teams in the same league on its home floor.
The Utes take on the University of Portland today at 5 p.m. MST at the Chiles Center in Portland, Ore., where the 11-3 Pilots are 7-0 this year.
Utah is coming off a disappointing performance at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, where the team went 0-3, including a 67-64 loss to a 2-10 San Diego team on the tournament's final day.
The Utes will have their hands full today with a good-shooting, experienced Portland squad, whose only losses were against Kentucky, Washington State and Washington.
The Pilots lead the nation in 3-point percentage at 45.4 percent and have two of the better shooters in the nation in Nemanja Mitrovic (52.6 percent) and Jared Stohl (45.7 percent).
Utah coach Jim Boylen calls 6-foot-8 forward Luke Sikma (12.7 ppg, 10..6 rpg) "one of the better four-men we'll play against this year." Sikma is the son of former NBA star Jack Sikma.
The other starters are center Kramer Knutson (7.1 ppg) and Eric Waterford (6.4 ppg).
"They're a very good shooting team, a terrific 3-point shooting team and very tough to beat at home," said Boylen. "They change defenses and I'm sure we'll see some zone and some man."
Boylen said his team has had two good practices this week and doesn't think it will suffer a hangover from the Hawaii trip.
The Utes are healthier than they've been all season, with freshman J.J. O'Brien back in the lineup after missing nine games with a stress fracture and David Foster and Jay Watkins practicing more regularly.
O'Brien is expected to start, along with Will Clyburn, who leads the team in both scoring (18.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg), Josh Watkins (14.6 ppg), Jason Washburn (7.8 ppg) and Chris Hines (6.2 ppg). Chris Kupets, Shawn Glover, Jay Watkins and David Foster will all see extensive minutes off the bench.
After tonight's game, the Utes will get ready for Mountain West Conference play beginning next week at Air Force on Wednesday night.
Utes on the air
Utah (7-6) at Portland (11-3)
Friday, 5 p.m.
Chiles Center, Portland, Ore.
Radio: 700 AM
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