Utah will attempt to bounce back from its firstsetback of the season Thursday when it hosts Montana State of the Big SkyConference. The Utes fell at home Monday to No. 18 Butler 68-59 and now havetwo games remaining on their season-opening seven-game homestand.
Monday’s game,though, was Utah’s first true barometer after opening against a pair ofDivision II foes and two small-conference DI programs, and the Utes struggled mightily.Utah shot 36.5 percent from the field, including 3-of-20 from 3-point range, with 18 turnovers and only four assists. Butler only trailed once – at 20-19 inthe first half – and converted those 18 Utah turnovers into 23 points on theother end. “This was the first test for us really if you look at ourschedule ... and we didn’t do a great job with the test,” Utes coach LarryKrystkowiak told reporters at his post-game news conference. “But we can’t learn unlesswe are put in a position where there’s a little adversity, and some guysrealize (that) when we talk about being stronger with the ball.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT MONTANA STATE (5-2): The Bobcats have won five of six since a season-opening 69-65 loss to Washington State but, like Utah, twoof the wins have come against lower-division foes -- including Monday’s 93-73victory over NAIA school Arizona Christian. Sophomore guard Tyler Hall, apreseason All-Big Sky first-team selection, hasn’t disappointed in averaging ateam-best 22.8 points while shooting 46.3 percent from the field – 24-of-55 from 3-point range – and hitting 25-of-27 free throws. Backcourt mate Harald Frey isthe team’s second-leading scorer at 12.8 points per game while swingman ZachGreen is averaging 11.8 points and a team-best 6.3 rebounds.
ABOUT UTAH (4-1): Forward Kyle Kuzma, one of tworeturning starters for the Utes, has taken charge as the team’s top player andis leading the squad in scoring (16.6 points) and rebounding (10.0). After a pooropener (five points on 1-for-5 shooting), guard Lorenzo Bonam has heated up andhas averaged 18.5 points over the last four games while shooting 65.9 percent fromthe floor. Overall, Utah is limiting opponents to 31.9 percent shooting on theseason and is averaging 16.6 more rebounds per game, which ranks fourthnationally through Tuesday’s games.
1. Butler shot 52.8 percent from the field againstUtah after the Utes’ first four foes shot a combined 27.7 percent.
2. Utah Gs Parker Van Dyke and JoJo Zamora are the top two 3-point shooters with seven apiece but they were a combined0-for-3 from the arc against Butler while totaling three points and twoassists.
3. Utah closes out its homestand next Tuesdayagainst Utah Valley before tipping off its road schedule with a visit tocurrent No. 7 Xavier on Dec. 10.
PREDICTION: Utah 84, Montana State 63