More than 2,000 miles separate BYU and Southern Virginia University, a wide gap in both cultural and geographical distances.
And yet, these two universities share some similarities. Included among them are ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On Wednesday night, the two schools — BYU a Division I school and Southern Virginia a provisional Division III member — will meet on the basketball court for the first time.
What are some of the ties these colleges share, and what have the Knights accomplished in their basketball history? Here's a look at five things you may not have known about Southern Virginia basketball.
In 2011, a national title was won
Four seasons ago, the Knights took home the national championship.
Southern Virginia, then a member of the NAIA, topped Ave Maria 83-67 to win the USCAA Division I national championship. While the school had won numerous USCAA titles in other sports prior to this, it was the Knights' first national crown in men's basketball.
Starting forward Derek Cutler, who prepped at Davis High, scored a career-high 17 points and had nine rebounds for the Knights in the championship victory.
Southern Virginia set several program records during the season, including wins (24), winning percentage (.750) and consecutive victories (eight).
Eaton returns to Utah Valley
Senior Knight point guard Preston Eaton — a Mapleton native and Springville High grad — is coming back home, and he will play on the same floor where his sister, Lexi, has made a name for herself in women's basketball at BYU.
Eaton led Southern Virginia with 35 points on Saturday as the Knights opened their 2014-15 season with a 110-101 triple overtime victory over Emory & Henry. Eaton also had nine rebounds, two steals and a team-high four assists in the win.
Eaton also has ties to the BYU men's basketball team, according to the Southern Virginia athletic website. He played AAU basketball with Cougar guard Skyler Halford, and he played in AAU with Chris Collinsworth, a former BYU player and older brother of current Cougar Kyle Collinsworth. Eaton also played in AAU competitions against former BYU stars Jimmer Fredette and Charles Abouo.
"I know a lot of former and current BYU players and I have good connections there," Eaton told his school. "I appreciate how coach (Dave) Rose runs his program and how strong it is. He's really done a nice job and I respect the accomplishments he's made the past 10 years."
Larson to play where his father did
Freshman small forward Taylor Larson made his Southern Virginia debut in the Knights' win over Emory & Henry, contributing 11 points and four rebounds while earning 15 minutes of playing time.
A Highland native who prepped at American Fork High, he will be returning home to play in the same building where his father, Russell Larson, played his college ball. Father Russell Larson played at BYU from 1991-95 and scored 1,885 career points, sixth-most in Cougar history. He was a two-time all-WAC honoree.
"Being able to play at the Marriott Center means everything," Taylor Larson told Southern Virginia's Nick Porter. "Growing up, I always wanted to play at BYU. It's like a lifelong dream come true, and even though it's not with a Cougar jersey on, I'm even more excited that it's with a Knight jersey."
Return trip to Utah
This isn't the first time the Southern Virginia team has played in Utah. On Nov. 23, 2011, just months after winning their national championship, the Knights traveled West to take on Southern Utah in Cedar City.
The Thunderbirds ultimately won the game 75-58 over Southern Virginia, then still a part of the NAIA. The Knights, however, pulled within seven points twice early in the second half before a 17-3 Southern Utah run ended any serious threat.
Guard Casey Nye, who prepped at Davis High, had 11 points, five rebounds and a steal for Southern Virginia in the game.
Of the 25 players on this year's Southern Virginia roster, 11 of them have served missions for the LDS Church. Head coach Tony Caputo served a mission in Scotland.
Of the 11 players who served missions, two of them — Joseph Ojelade and Ben Canevari, a Murray native — served in Birmingham, Ala., and another — Wesley Evans — served in Salt Lake City.
Nine of the 11 players served in the United States, while Eaton served in Concepcion, Chile, and Cody Hosier served in Tokyo, Japan.
Bonus: Additional Utah ties
In addition to the aformentioned athletes, three other Southern Virginia players hail from the state of Utah: Scott Edwards (Provo), Ryan Logan (Cedar City) and Corey Jones (Sandy).
Caputo, who also serves as the Knights' men's tennis coach and assistant athletic director, taught for 14 years in three Utah school districts before heading to Southern Virginia.
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