Christmas for the Utah basketball team was a little happier than it might have been thanks to a victory over Cal last Saturday.
The memory of the upset victory was fresh on their minds as they celebrated Christmas, with two players, Johnnie Bryant and Carlon Brown, staying in California for a couple of days and the rest of the players returning to Utah.
However, by late afternoon Christmas Day, the Utes were back to business, preparing for tonight's game against Idaho State at the Huntsman Center (7).
Besides a "hard" Christmas evening practice, according to coach Jim Boylen, the Utes practiced Wednesday morning. They aren't looking past today's opponent, which comes into the game with a 2-8 mark and is coming off a 30-point home loss to Washington State on Sunday.
"This team has not handled success well," Boylen said of his Utes. "This will be a good test for us against a team we should beat if we play the right way."
The Bengals, under second-year coach Joe O'Brien, were picked for fifth in the Big Sky preseason coaches poll. They start all underclassmen, led by 6-foot-6 junior guard Matt Stucki, who averages 12.6 points per game.
Other starters include 6-10 center Lucas Steijn (7.7 ppg), forward Demetrius Monroe (3.1 ppg), and guards Amorrow Morgan (9.0 ppg) and Austin Kilpatrick (7.1 ppg).
ISU's two victories came against Idaho and Montana State-Northern. Besides the loss to No. 6 Washington State, the Bengals lost to UCLA by 40, to BYU by 21 and to Boise State by 32.
The Bengals are shooting just 40 percent from the field and 25.3 percent from 3-point range. They are also getting out-rebounded by 6.4 boards per game.
The Utes will go with their usual starting lineup of Luke Nevill, Shaun Green and Carlon Brown inside with Tyler Kepkay and Lawrence Borha at the guardline.
Stephen Weigh, who has been coming off an injury to ribs last month and who sat out against Cal on the coach's decision, is expected to see a lot of minutes tonight. However, reserve forward Kim Tillie, is doubtful after injuring his leg in practice.
After tonight's game, the Utes have another tough one on the road when they play Gonzaga Monday night in Spokane. Later in the week they open Mountain West Conference play with a home game against Air Force.Idaho State returns home to play Northwest Nazarene Thursday night.
GAME NOTES: The Utes have a commanding 20-3 lead in the all-time series with ISU ... Coach Joe O'Brien is in his second year as ISU head coach ... Utah ranks No. 4 in the nation in field goal percentage at 51.7 percent.
Utes on the air
Idaho St. (2-8) at Utah (7-3)
Today, 7 p.m., MST
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