SAN DIEGO Over the years, the Utah basketball team has had good success at San Diego State.
Since the two schools started playing on a regular basis in 1980, Utah has won 19 of the 26 meetings in San Diego, including nine of the last 11.
Two years ago, when San Diego State won the Mountain West title, the Utes handed the Aztecs their only home loss in league play and one of three overall. Even last year when the Utes had their worst season in decades, they held an 11-point second-half lead before faltering down the stretch to lose.
This year the Utes have a new coach in Jim Boylen, who knows the past means nothing when the Utes and Aztecs meet tonight at Cox Arena (9 p.m. MST). He sees the Aztecs, who come in with their best start in 41 years at 12-4, as the "most athletic" team the Utes have faced this year and was impressed with their come-from-behind win at New Mexico Saturday.
"Road wins are precious it's very difficult to win on the road," Boylen said. "We have to try to neutralize their athleticism, which is very difficult to do. It's very intimidating watching them on film."
Boylen believes the keys for the Utes will be to limit the Aztecs' offensive rebounds, to not turn the ball over too much and to limit their "paint twos."
The Aztecs have a young team led by Louisville transfer Lorenzo Wade, a 6-foot-6 forward who averages 15.0 points a game. Kyle Spain, a 6-5 junior forward, averages 13.5 and 5.6 rebounds per game.
"I think they have some really nice pieces," said Boylen. "Steve Fisher has done a really nice job of getting them to play in that system but also have some freedom."
The Utes will be quite short-handed inside with both Stephen Weigh and Kim Tillie out with injuries. Tillie has worked out the past two days coming off a stress fracture in his leg, but is doubtful to play. Weigh hurt his knee against Dixie State and is expected to be out at least a month.
With those two missing the Utes only have inside players Luke Nevill, Shaun Green and freshman Morgan Grim.
"Luke and I have to try to limit our fouls and be smart with how we're playing and not pick up any cheap fouls," said Green.
If needed, the Utes will have to go "small" with Carlon Brown or Luka Drca moving over to the "4" spot.GAME NOTES: After tonight's game, the Utes will return straight home on a charter flight to get ready for Saturday afternoon's home game against BYU ... Boylen said he has known Fisher since he recruited one of Boylen's high school teammates nearly 25 years ago ... Last year, the Utes and Aztecs split, with the Utes winning 74-68 in Salt Lake behind Ricky Johns' 30 points and losing in San Diego 63-53 ... The two teams have one common opponent in California. The Utes beat the Bears 67-65, while the Aztecs lost 77-69.