Unbeaten Utes hit the road for the first time at Boise State

Published: Monday, Dec. 2 2013 11:55 p.m. MST

Utah Utes forward Renan Lenz (10) drives on Savannah State Tigers forward Saadiq Muhammad (4) in Salt Lake City Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

BOISE — The Utah basketball team wasn't singing Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again’’ as it headed to Idaho to play Boise State Tuesday night (8 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena).

For the Utes, it’s “On the Road for the First Time” as they play the Broncos in what is not only their first road game but only road game until Pac-12 play opens in January.

The Utes have played six homes games, winning all six by double digits, and will play five more home games before starting conference play at home against Oregon on Jan. 2. With just one road game, the Utes play fewer road games than any team in the Pac-12 Conference, and it marks the first time in 40 years the Utes have had as few as one non-league road game.

The Utes seem anxious to get out of town for a change and try their luck against another undefeated team.

“We haven’t been out yet, so it will be good for us,’’ said Ute guard Brandon Taylor. “I’m actually excited to go and play on the road, I really love road games. We’re going to a hostile environment, but that won’t change how we’re going to play.’’

“It’s exciting,’’ added Renan Lenz. “It’s going to be a challenge for us definitely, but it’s good to get out of our routine here.’’

“The time is right for it,’’ said coach Larry Krystkowiak. “Our players and staff are ready to go into a place that’s tough to play.’’

In Boise State, the Utes will be playing another 6-0 team that hasn’t faced a lot of opposition this year. The Broncos are averaging 97.7 points a game and have played just one road game, a 100-80 victory over New Orleans.

Anthony Drmic, a 6-foot-6 senior from Australia, leads the team in scoring at 21.5 points per game and is the second-leading rebounder with 5.5 boards per game. Also scoring in double figures for the Broncos are junior guard Derrick Marks (18.8 ppg), senior guard Jeff Elorriaga (13.6 ppg), sophomore guard Mikey Thompson (10.2 ppg) and senior forward Ryan Watkins (10.2 ppg), who also leads in rebounding with 9.8 boards per game.

“It’s going to be a heckuva challenge,’’ Krystkowiak said. “They’ve got some playmakers and look to attack you. But we’re going to play the same style and not going to slow anything down. We’re going to run every time we get a rebound or every time we force a turnover.’’

Krystkowiak said his lineup is “subject to change’’ but is expected to start Jordan Loveridge (16.0 ppg), Delon Wright (15.2 ppg), Taylor (11.8 ppg), Lenz (10.2) and either Princeton Onwas (8.5 ppg) or Dakarai Tucker (7.5 ppg) at the small forward position.

After Tuesday’s game, the Utes return home for a game against Fresno State Saturday afternoon.

GAME NOTES: Marko Kovecevic, a 6-11 junior forward, has been cleared to play after sitting out all season with a broken wrist. … This will mark the fourth straight year the Utes and Broncos have met. Utah has won two of three, and in each of the last two years, the home team has won by 21 points — 80-59 for the Broncos two years ago and 76-55 for the Utes last year. … The Utes lead the nation in two categories — defensive 3-point percentage (18.2 percent) and fewest fouls per game (12.8). … The Broncos have three players from Australia and one from Latvia on their roster.

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