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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Utah head coach Jim Boylen yells to his team.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah men's basketball coach Jim Boylen has always been a big proponent of "sharing the ball," something he has preached since the day he arrived in Utah.

However, this year's team doesn't seem to be sharing that much, at least according to the numbers.

The Utes are ranked way back at No. 322 in the country for assists with 10 per game. In assist-to-turnover ratio, the Utes are 299th with 90 assists to 128 turnovers.

Boylen is more concerned with too many turnovers than the lack of assists. He wants to keep them around 12 per game, which is exactly what the Utes have averaged in their six victories. However in their three losses, they had 14 against Utah State and 16 in each of the losses to Oral Roberts and Michigan.

"We need to pass it better," Boylen said. "But we're driving more and getting to the basket. You don't get as many assists when you drive the ball and get fouled."

The Utes are certainly going to the foul line much more than the previous three Boylen-coached teams.

His first team in 2007-08 averaged just 16 free throws per game and moved up to 20 in '08-09 and 21 last year. So far this year, the Utes have jumped up to 25.5 free throws per game.

Now if they can just make their free throw opportunities. After ranking No. 7 in the nation two weeks ago at nearly 80 percent, the Utes have fallen to 85th after shooting just 57.9 percent on 42 of 76 in the last three games.

SLOW START: Big things were expected from junior center David Foster this year after the 7-foot-3 center earned Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year honors last year in his first year back from an LDS mission.

However, Foster sat out most of the preseason practice time with tendinitis in his left knee. He hasn't been able to get back into the flow, particularly on offense, where he's averaging just 2.0 points per game.

"It's been very frustrating," he said. "I was so happy to get back on the court. It's one thing to help your team out on the side and be a voice and a leader, but there's nothing like being an example to your teammates on the floor."

Foster still leads the Mountain West Conference in blocked shots with 2.6 per game and is 27th in the nation — not bad for averaging just 15.9 minutes per game so far.

FAMILIAR RECORD: This marks the seventh time in the past decade that the Utes have had a 6-3 record through nine games.

It's remarkable that the Ute program, with all its success over the years, hasn't had a better than a 6-3 record through nine games since the 1999-2000 season when they started 7-2. However, five of those wins that year came against Arkansas State, Stony Brook, Augusta State, Sioux Falls and Chicago State. The other two came against Utah State and Washington State.

In 2000-01, 2008-09 and 2009-10, Utah was 5-4 and in 2006-07 was 4-5 through nine games.

UTE NOTES: Utah's only game this week comes against Boise State on Friday night at the Huntsman Center. … Boylen missed practice Monday because he got hung up in the bad weather in the East after a recruiting trip he made following the Michigan game. … Junior Will Clyburn ranks second in the Mountain West Conference in both scoring (19.2 ppg) and rebounding (9.0 rpg). On a national scale, he ranks 43rd in scoring and 62nd in rebounding. … The Utes are first in the MWC in free throw percentage (71.6) but last in field goal percentage at 43.3. … Next week, the Utes play in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu with a first-round game against Butler on Dec. 22.

e-mail: sor@desnews.com