The beat goes on. The University of Utah has run its winning streak to nine games and improved its record to 12-1, but that's the good news. The bad news is that the Utes are hurting.
Three standout players - Phil Dixon, Paul Afeaki and Byron Wilson - all missed Friday's practice because of injuries suffered in Thursday's overtime victory over Hawaii. Their status is uncertain for tonight's game against San Diego State in San Diego.Wilson missed most of Thursday's game against Hawaii after being undercut by the Rainbows' Phil Lott in the first half while driving to the basket for a would-be breakaway dunk. According to Utah coach Rick Majerus, "Wilson won't play," tonight.
Without Wilson, Dixon was forced to play against Hawaii more than his delicate left ankle normally allows, and he's now paying the price. His year-old ankle injury has flared up again. "We played him more than we should," said Majerus. "We had to. Without him, we couldn't have won."
Afeaki has been hampered by back spasms and a bruised shin (also a result of the Hawaii game).
"I don't know if he or Wilson will play," says Majerus. "We'll just have to see how they feel."
Majerus would certainly like to be at full strength for tonight's game against San Diego State (tipoff is at 8:30 MST). The Aztecs are only 5-6, but they have had some narrow losses. They lost two games by one point. They dropped another game to UCLA after trailing by just five points with five minutes left to play. They lost to BYU Thursday after leading most of the game.
They did manage to beat Baylor.
"Right now we're a club that's struggling to find a balance of offensive players and defensive players," says coach Jim Brandenburg.
Only five of the Aztec players had played major college basketball before the season began. Their roster includes five freshmen and two sophomores.
Senior Marty Dow, a 7-foot center, is averaging 18.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. The team's other top scorer is guard Arthur Massey, who is averaging 16.4 points per game.
Two freshmen start for the Aztecs: 6-10 forward Joe McNaull and guard Chris McKinney. The other starter is 6-6 forward Vern Thompson.
The Aztecs have lost to the Utes in six of their last seven meetings.
"Dow is tough," says Majerus. "Ask the NBA guys about him. McKinney looks good too."
The Utes caught a redeye flight from Honolulu to San Diego immediately after Thursday's game against Hawaii. Majerus hopes the schedule doesn't catch up with his team.
"The Hawaii game was a nice win for us," says the coach. "We played really hard in a tough situation. They had a sellout crowd over there. The crowd was going nuts. But we made big plays."