Is the University of Utah on borrowed time? Are the Runnin' Utes runnin' out of gas? On Friday, the day after beating Colorado State, Coach Rick Majerus gave his team a rare day off.
"We have tired legs," he said shortly after the CSU game. "We just don't have the bodies."The Utes will need fresh legs tonight as they reach for a little history in their game against the Air Force Academy in the Huntsman Center (tipoff: 7:35). The Utes are one win away from claiming their 16th consecutive victory, which would tie a school record set during the 1912-13 season, 78 years ago.
Air Force - which is winless in five league games and owner of a 6-10 record - proved to be anything but a pushover for Utah when they met last Saturday in Colorado Springs. The Falcons led by four points at halftime, but finally fell 57-47.
The Utes have struggled in their last two games - they trailed in the second half of both contests - partly because of fatigue, but largely because of the deliberate style of play and solid defense that are employed by both Air Force and CSU.
The Utah-Air Force game was an exhibition in poor shooting - 34 percent for Utah, 33 percent for Air Force. The Utes shot little better against CSU (41.5 percent).
"We looked tired," said Majerus afterward, "but they (the Rams) play great D. You've got to give them credit."
With a win tonight, the Utes, 18-1 overall, 7-0 in Western Athletic Conference play, would finish the first half of the WAC season with a spotless 8-0 mark. A win would also give the Utes a two-game lead over the rest of the WAC, if Wyoming loses tonight at BYU.
The Utes, whose win total this season is second only to Arkansas', continue to survive with their depth. Josh Grant (17 points per game) is the only Ute averaging double scoring figures. Nine players average between five and nine points per game.
Phil Dixon, Utah's designated three-point ace, has been struggling lately, having made just 2 of his last 16 shots - a slump that covers four games. "I tell him to keep shooting," says Majerus."
Against CSU, Grant and Walter Watts combined to deliver 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Air Force's top scorer is 6-4 forward Chris Lowry, who scored just three points in the first game against Utah. Brent Roberts and Aaron Benson, a pair of 6-8 front-line players, average 6.5 and 8.5 points, respectively. Guards George Irvin and Charles Smith average about 15 points between them.
Tonight's game will be preceded by an alumni game, beginning at 5 p.m. The game will match Ute players of the '60s and '80s (Keith Chapman, Tommy Connor, etc.) against Ute players of the '70s (Mike Sojourner, Jeff Judkins, Jeff Jonas, etc.).