Utah Utes basketball: Shorthanded Utes conclude schedule ‘gauntlet’ vs. UNLV

first_img Related U.’s Watkins to miss game vs. UNLV LAS VEGAS — Having failed in their first game of what coach Jim Boylen calls “The Gauntlet,” the Utah basketball team will try again tonight when it takes on UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center.For the second time this week, the Utes will play in front of a large and raucous crowd against a 14-3 team that has knocked off ranked teams and been ranked in the Top 25 itself.Like New Mexico, the Rebels have compiled a 14-3 record with wins over Louisville, when it was ranked No. 16, and the Lobos when they were ranked No. 15. The Rebels’ only losses were to Kansas State, currently ranked No. 13, USC and BYU, which is ranked No. 17.As usual, the Utes, who have played just four games this year with their whole team healthy, will be short-handed. Although Kim Tillie practiced Friday and has the possibility of playing limited minutes tonight, the Utes will be without Jay Watkins, who has already missed seven games this season.Watkins returned home Thursday to attend his stepfather’s funeral and won’t rejoin the team until next week. He had gone home two weeks earlier, after his stepfather had suffered a brain aneurysm and died the following day.With Watkins out and Tillie a game-time decision, the Utes will have to go deeper on their bench with players such as Jordan Cyphers, Chris Hines and Matt Read playing more minutes than they have lately.”We’re back to two forwards with a limited number of minutes,” said Boylen. “We’ll try to make the best of it.”Boylen said his team did some good things at New Mexico, but he wasn’t happy with the defensive rebounding — the Utes allowed 12 offensive boards — free-throw shooting (14-of-24), 3-point shooting (7-of-23, and just 2-of-11 on wide-open shots) and turnovers (16, including six by Luka Drca).”We can’t be so careless and need to play with more poise and better toughness,” said Boylen.UNLV has as small a team as it has had in recent years, with no true center. Junior Matt Shaw (7.1 ppg) and sophomore Chace Stanback (9.1 ppg) are both 6-foot-8 and are joined in the starting lineup by guards Tre’Von Willis (16.0 ppg), Oscar Bellfield (10.4 ppg) and Derrick Jasper (7.1 ppg). Kendall Wallace (7.5 ppg) is the team’s best 3-point shooter, hitting 42 percent with 32 makes.”We need to defend and rebound and keep them out of transition,” said Boylen.The Utes return home for a pair of games next week — Tuesday night against San Diego State and Saturday afternoon against Air Force.UTE GAME NOTES: Following Wednesday night’s game, the Utes were forced to stay an extra night in Albuquerque to comply with the NCAA’s “48-hour rule,” which doesn’t allow teams to arrive more than 48 hours before an athletic event. They flew into Las Vegas Friday morning. … The Rebels are the third team in “others receiving votes” in the USA Today/ESPN poll, putting them 28th overall. … UNLV leads the all-time series 21-20 with wins in eight of the last 10 games. Last year, each team took a 10-point victory, with UNLV winning 75-65 at home and Utah winning 70-60 a month later at the Huntsman Center. … Tonight’s game will be the third annual “Kids’ Night” at the T&M, with pre-game festivities and giveaways during the game.Utes on the airUtah (8-8, 1-1 MWC) at UNLV (14-3, 2-1)Tonight, 8 p.m. (MST)Thomas & Mack CenterTV: CBS-C Radio: 700 AMe-mail: [email protected]last_img

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