We’re just trying to figure out a way to get a win. But it’s neat. It kind of reeks of some history and cool tradition. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
INDIANAPOLIS — Utah practiced at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on Monday. “Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral,” where the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed and players like former Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward rose to prominence over the years, lived up to its billing according to the Utes.
The renovated 89-year-old facility, a registered national landmark, was a big hit as Utah (6-1) prepared for Tuesday’s game against Butler (7 p.m., FS1).
“On a scale of one to cool it’s awesome — if that makes any sense,” said senior forward David Collette. “It’s unreal being here. You always hear about it. It’s a classic stadium and it’s just a good experience to be here.”
Utah (6-1) at Butler (6-2)
Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM
Junior guard Sedrick Barefield agreed.
“I’m in love with the gym,” he said while noting the arena’s historical significance. “It’s really nice. I’m excited to play here.”
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, though, was a bit more tempered in his thoughts.
“It’s more business to be honest,” he said,
Krystkowiak acknowledged the building’s rich history but added it may be generational.
“We’re just trying to figure out a way to get a win,” he continued. “But it’s neat. It kind of reeks of some history and cool tradition.”
Butler (6-2) is led by senior forward Kelan Martin (16.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin (13 ppg). The Bulldogs have wins over Kennesaw State, Princeton, Furman, Portland State, Ohio State and Saint Louis. Their losses have come against Maryland and Texas.
“They’re a real physical, defensive-minded squad,” Krystkowiak said. “You better be strong with the ball in a lot of different places and make good decisions. They’ve got some high-powered guys on offense as well that are tough match-ups for us.”
The Utes, Krystkowiak continued, have got to be solid because the Bulldogs are fundamentally sound.
“You’ve got a Butler team that hangs their hat on toughness and rebounding,” he said. “And if we’re not ready to go, then it’s going to be a rough (evening).”
Utah dropped a 68-59 decision to Butler last season in the Huntsman Center.
After last Saturday’s 80-60 win over Hawaii, Krystkowiak waxed poetic about the home of the Runnin’ Utes.
“I think one of the greatest venues is the one we’re playing in. It’s where I got the bug and I knew what I wanted to do,” said Krystkowiak, who recalled the 1979 NCAA championship game between Michigan State and Indiana State that featured Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird.
That contest, he reminded reporters, is considered by many to be the biggest ever played — a one-game deal with iconic players like Johnson and Bird.
“So there’s some special places,” Krystkowiak said before looking ahead to the trip to Butler, where the Indiana high school basketball tournament immortalized in the film was played for many years.
Certainly, Krystkowiak added, the Indiana prep tourney at Hinkle Fieldhouse was as rabid and traditional as anything gets. It’s created an aroma, of sorts.
“It’s almost like you can kind of smell plenty of stories over the years and plenty of sweat and blood and a lot of crazy basketball games,” he said. “So it’s neat to be going to a place like that.”