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Utah Utes basketball: Team set to celebrate Huntsman anniversary

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 9:37 a.m. MDT

For Saturday afternoon's basketball game against Wyoming, the Utah athletic department will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Promotions will include 1970's-themed giveaways, '70's music and a four-minute "History of the Huntsman Center" video at halftime, narrated by Bill Marcroft, the longtime "Voice of the Utes."

The Huntsman Center actually opened in 1969 on Dec. 1 when the Utes defeated Stanford 96-94, but it's never too late celebrate the milestone and perhaps attract a few more fans. Ironically, the arena has the lowest attendance average, at 8,759 since it opened in 1969-70. That year, the average attendance was 11,064. The lowest attendance for a season was 8,830 in 1972-73, Bill Foster's second season at Utah, when the Utes went 6-10 at home.

However, the Utes are almost certain to surpass that number with the Utah-BYU game coming up March 3 after this week's Wyoming game.

The Wyoming game, which tips off at 4 p.m., will also be Faculty and Staff Night with all faculty and staff presenting a valid University ID getting in free.

THE WALL: When asked if sophomore center David Foster had hit the proverbial wall after going 1-for-9 from the field and 0-for-4 from the line in the last four games, coach Jim Boylen said he has been concerned for some time about his center. Still he has nothing but good to say about Foster.

"David has given us everything he's got," he said. "He practices hard, he plays hard, plays through contact, plays through fatigue, plays through injury. He's done a great job this year."

Boylen went on to say, "To me he's the defensive player of the year (in the MWC). It's not even close. Nobody impacts the game more than him at the defensive end with his shot blocks, alters and his presence."

The Ute coach revealed that Foster is down to 231 pounds after being listed at 255 at the start of the season and that he's cutting his minutes back. After playing him 31 and 34 minutes, respectively, against TCU and New Mexico, Boylen has cut his minutes to 27 and 24 the past two games, while using Kim Tillie in the center spot along with Jason Washburn.

MORE ZONE?: When Malcolm Thomas scored four quick baskets against both Foster and Washburn Saturday night, it was obvious the 7-footers couldn't guard the quicker 6-9 athletic forward.

Later Tillie did a better defensive job on Thomas and Foster got a couple of late blocks against him. However, with San Diego State not being a very good 3-point shooting team and not having a big center to match up with, why didn't the Utes go to a zone defense?

Boylen said he considered it but didn't because is team has been working hard on "cutouts" in its man-to-man defense and he didn't want to disrupt his team's progress. The Utes actually outrebounded SDSU after getting outboarded by seven in the earlier game and also outrebounded UNLV the previous game.

"We have to keep working on our zone and hopefully it's a weapon for us down the stretch," he said. "We can armchair quarterback and say maybe we should have played zone and you wouldn't be wrong in saying that."

MISC: The Utes play at Air Force Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. … When he fouled out against San Diego State last week, it marked the seventh disqualification for Tillie this year and the 14th of his career. In the latter category he is tied for ninth on the Ute career list with Alex Jensen . . . Foster is still entrenched at No. 4 in the nation in blocked shots with 4.4 per game. With one more block, he'll move into second place on the MWC season list . . . Luka Drca is 44th in the nation in free throw shooting at 85.5 percent and is first in the MWC in league play at 91.7 percent.

e-mail: sor@desnews.com

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