Since he was named Utah basketball coach last spring, Ute coach Jim Boylen has become acquainted with other basketball coaches in the state, including Utah State coach Stew Morrill.
The two hit it off right away, partly because they had something in common in coach Jud Heathcote, who coached at Montana just before Morrill became an assistant there and who Boylen assisted in the late 1980s at Michigan State.
Tonight in an 8 p.m. contest (The Mtn.) at the Huntsman Center, Boylen and Morrill face off for the first time as opposing coaches.
Boylen said the two first met while recruiting in the summer and have talked on the phone since.
"He's a nationally known and respected coach," Boylen said. "He embraced me and made me feel welcome and has been very supportive. Stew is a classy guy, and I have a lot of respect for his program. He gave me a few tidbits of advice, and I value what he had to say to me."
Boylen wouldn't say what personal advice Morrill gave him and although Morrill didn't say everything he told Boylen, he did reveal something.
He told Boylen that as a head coach "sometimes you'll feel like you're losing your mind, but it will just seem that way. It's quite normal, and you just have to accept it."
Morrill might have felt that way earlier this season when his team had to play eight games in 16 days, winning half of them. Since then his team has found some time to practice and is coming off a 71-65 victory over Santa Clara, which earlier beat the Utes by 16 points in Salt Lake.
Morrill said it has helped his team to get more practice time and that concerns Boylen.
"They've done a nice job of handling adversity," Boylen said.
"They've hung in there and now that they've got practice time they're playing really well."
The key player in tonight's game could be Jaycee Carroll, whom Boylen calls the "Drew Neitzel of the West," referring to the Michigan State All-American whom he coached the past two years.
"They have a superstar in my mind in Jaycee Carroll," Boylen said. "He's a little bigger and stronger (than Nietzel) and has the ability to change games with his shooting. Everybody on that team knows he's the guy and he's going to make plays for them. The guy's an All-American candidate if there ever was one. He's a very difficult challenge for our defense."
Carroll averages 20.3 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 49.1 percent from 3-point range. He also leads the team in rebounding at 6.8 per game, free throw shooting (92.1 percent) and is second in assists (2.5).
The Utes will have to watch Carroll and improve their 3-point shooting defense after allowing UC Irvine to shoot 59.1 percent on Saturday.
"It's something this team has to work on. We have a history of not that well," Boylen said. "It always has to be a point of emphasis with this team."
GAME NOTES: Ute freshman guard Carlon Brown is expected to start in place of Stephen Weigh, who is still sidelined with bruised ribs.Point guard Curtis Eatmon is still out with a groin injury ... The Utes and Aggies already have three common opponents, and none of their results have been the same. Both played at Weber State with Utah winning 72-52 and USU losing 78-71. Both had home games against Santa Clara with USU winning 71-65 and Utah losing 73-57. Utah defeated UC Irvine 78-66 at home, while USU lost 70-51 on the road ... Utah State won last year's game in Logan 60-57 on Chaz Spicer's last-second 3-pointer.
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