Utah Utes basketball: Now it is basketball's turn to beat Montana State
SALT LAKE CITY — Back in September, Utah defeated Montana State in football, handing the Bobcats, now ranked No. 1 in the FCS, their only loss of the season.
Beating Montana State in basketball may be a more difficult proposition for the Utes.
Even though the basketball Bobcats aren't a power as they are in football — picked to finish seventh in the Big Sky Conference — they could give the Utes all they can handle when the two teams play Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.
It's not so much that the Bobcats are great, but rather that the Utes aren't so great.
So far, the Utes have shown it may be a long year under first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak and his almost-new team. On Wednesday night they were beaten handily at Boise State two days after barely getting past San Diego Christian College, an NAIA school. Three days before that, the Utes lost to Adams State in an exhibition game.
After the Boise State loss, Krystkowiak listed all of the things the Utes did wrong and said it may take awhile for the young Utes to jell this season.
"This is going to be the thing all year," he said. "Hopefully in February, we'll be saying OK guys, we put this fire out and this fire out and this fire out and now it's time to put it all together."
The Bobcats got the Utes' attention with a close loss to another Pac-12 team, Arizona State, losing 78-72 in Tempe last week. Then, in their second game this week, the Bobcats cruised past Northern New Mexico 111-61.
In the loss to Arizona State, the Bobcats shot 18 percent from the field in the first half, but improved to 47 in the second half when they cut a 12-point lead with three minutes left to four in the final 30 seconds.
"Our guys are not short on fight," coach Brad Huse said after the loss. "That will help us down the road."
Like perhaps today's game.
Shawn Reid leads MSU with a 16.0 average, while four other players average in double figures — Jourdain Allou (11.5 ppg), Xavier Johnson-Blount (10.5), Christian Moon (10.0) and Jamie Stewart (10.0).
Senior guard Josh Watkins is the only Ute averaging in double figures at 21.0 points per game. Junior center Jason Washburn averages 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds, while freshman Anthony Odunsi, who scored 14 at Boise, averages 8.5 ppg.
After Saturday's game, the Utes will get ready for their trip to the Bahamas, where they will face Harvard in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Thanksgiving Day.
Montana State (1-1) at Utah (1-1)
Today, 1 p.m.
Radio: 700 AM
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