They're awfully good. They have so many weapons and run their stuff so well. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak on Stanford
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah and Stanford basketball teams share a pretty good history, going back to the first meeting between the two schools in 1932.
The two schools were together at the Final Four in San Antonio in 1998, when they would have met in the finals if the Cardinal hadn't lost in overtime to Kentucky. The previous year, the two met in the West Regional semifinals in San Jose, where the Utes pulled out an 82-77 victory in overtime. Back in 1969, Stanford was the opponent for the first-ever game at the Huntsman Center, which was called Special Events Center at the time.
In all, the Utes and Cardinal have met 21 times on the basketball floor with the Utes winning 14 of those contests.
However, Thursday night's game at Maples Pavilion (8 p.m. MT) will mark the first-ever matchup between the two schools as Pac-12 members and will be just the second game between the pair since the 1973-74 season.
The Cardinal and Utes are on opposite ends of the Pac-12 standings. Stanford enjoys the best record in the league at 13-3 overall and sits in second place in Pac-12 play at 3-1. Meanwhile Utah is just 4-11, the worst overall record in the league, and 1-2 in conference play.
"They're awfully good," Krystkowiak said of Stanford. "They have so many weapons and run their stuff so well."
However, he's not as concerned about the Cardinal team, as he is about what his own team must do.
"We need to keep the tempo in our favor," he said. "We have to be really disciplined and do a great job defensively. We can't turn it over and take bad shots. We have to put together our best game of the year to keep up with them."
The Utes are 0-7 in games away from the Huntsman Center. They played some of their best basketball of the season last week in wins over Washington State and a close loss to Washington.
"Now we need to take that out on the road," Krystkowiak said.
Stanford has a well-balanced lineup, led by senior forward Josh Owens, who leads the team in scoring (13.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.1 rpg). Sophomore point guard Aaron Bright averages 12.5 points and 3.3 assists per game, while freshman guard Chasson Randle is scoring 11.9 points, but may come off the bench against Utah.
The Cardinal are coming off a thrilling four-overtime 103-101 victory over Oregon State in Corvallis. Two days earlier they suffered their only Pac-12 loss at Oregon.
Stanford is a very good defensive team, holding opponents to just 60.6 points per game and 40.4 percent field goal shooting. Stanford is also an excellent rebounding team, outboarding opponents by 6.9 per game, which is 22nd in the country.
That could be a problem for the under-sized Utes, who are last in the Pac-12 at minus-3.9 rebounds per game. Also, the Utes are shooting just 40.8 percent from the field and 27.1 percent from 3-point range.
Josh Watkins leads the Utes in scoring at 15.6 ppg, fourth best in the Pac-12, while center Jason Washburn scores 10.8 and leads the team in rebounding at 6.9 rpg. Other expected starters are Chris Hines (6.9 ppg), Cedric Martin (6.7 ppg) and Dijon Farr (6.2 ppg)
GAME NOTES: After Thursday's game, the Utes go across the bay to play Cal Saturday at 8:30 p.m. MT ... Krystkowiak and Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins were teammates as NBA rookies for the 1986-87 San Antonio Spurs ... Utah has played twice previously at Maples Pavilion, which was built in 1969. The Utes beat Stanford in 1971 at Maples 99-91, but lost there in 1973, 80-71 ... The 7,392-seat arena was renovated in 2004 ... Stanford will play Utah at the Huntsman Center on Feb. 25.
UTES ON THE AIR
Stanford (13-3, 3-1) at Utah (4-11, 1-2)
Thursday January 12th, 8 p.m. MT
TV: Comcast Sports Bay Area
Radio: 700 AM