I think I definitely feel the intensity of it. Everyone is just like the 'pride of Utah.' We want to be the best. —Donnie Tillman
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s taken a while, and then some, for Utah and Utah State to meet for the 224th time in men’s basketball. The long-running rivalry has been put on hold ever since the Aggies handed the Utes a 79-62 setback in Logan on Nov. 24, 2010.
On Saturday, the rivalry will be renewed — at least for a day — when the teams meet in the inaugural game of the Beehive Classic at Vivint Arena. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.
“It’s an opponent that we have a lot of respect for,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who added that the in-state doubleheader that also features BYU and Weber State is an interesting event. “We’ve got the early half of the matinee and we know we’ve got our hands full.”
The Aggies enter the first neutral-site game in the series with a 5-5 record. The Utes are 6-2 after an 81-69 loss at Butler on Tuesday. Krystkowiak said he’s excited to see how his team responds after the loss in Indianapolis.
“I think we had a little bit of a hiccup at Butler,“ explained Krystkowiak, who noted that a couple of guys — at the end of the day — need to be better.
That includes senior forward David Collette, who had just five points in the loss to the Bulldogs. The Utah State transfer will be an obvious player to watch on Saturday. He leads the Utes in scoring with 13.8 points per game.
Despite his somewhat controversial departure from Logan, Collette insists this is just another game,
“That’s about it,” he said after practice on Friday. “We all know I transferred from there but when it comes down to it, it’s just another game — just like all the other ones.”
When pressed by reporters, Collette opened up a little bit. He acknowledged keeping in touch with some of the guys at USU.
“I moved on from there. This is where I am and this happens to be the next game we have,” Collette said. “We’re doing our game plan and we’ll go in and execute it just like all the other games.”
In 2014-15, Collette earned third-team All-Mountain West Conference honors. He averaged 12.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks for the Aggies.
Collette said “absolutely not” when asked if he harbored any ill will towards his old team.
“I respect their program. I loved my time up there — learned a lot, great place,” he noted. “But I’m here now.”
As for the Beehive Classic, Collette likes it.
“I think in-state teams should have the chance to battle it out every year,” he said. “So I think it’s a great idea.”
Freshman forward Donnie Tillman, who is from Detroit but played his high school ball at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, has an appreciation for the concept.
“I think I definitely feel the intensity of it,” he said. "Everyone is just like the 'pride of Utah.' We want to be the best.”
Bragging rights, apparently, still mean something.
“You don’t have to talk about it much. There’s a lot of pride, I think, within programs in the boundaries of our state,” Krystkowiak said. “The four teams that are here (at the Beehive Classic) are solid basketball teams with a lot of tradition. So there’s a lot of pride.”
Utah (6-2) vs. Utah State (5-5)
Vivint Smart Home Arena
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700AM