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Utah Basketball: Runnin' Utes to open regular season against Southern Utah

Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah basketball program will take the court Friday night to open the 2015-16 regular season against Southern Utah at the Jon M Huntsman Center. The Utes did have an exhibition game just a week ago, as they took on Cal State Monterey Bay, and walked away with a easy victory.

Friday night is when it is all for real, and when we start to learn what this edition of the Runnin' Utes have in store for us. The biggest question going into the season is who will fill the shoes of Delon Wright, an NBA 1st round draft pick? It looks like it will have to be by committee, but the name that will take his starting role is Lorenzo Bonam. Bonham is a long guard, but unlike Delon Wright, is really a score first point guard. He has the ability to go to the basketball and finish around the rim. It will be interesting to see how Bonam fits the defensive mentality of this team.

We'll see Utah staples, like Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge and Dakari Tucker take the floor with some returning youth, like Kyle Kuzma, Isaiah Wright and Brekkott Chapman. It's always fun to watch that crew come together and play, and the Utes may have a little bit more offensive firepower this year, with a lot of combinations they can throw out on the court at one time.

It will be interesting to see how Utah has tweaked and improved things since the exhibition contest, because there were some on-ball defensive issues in that game. Of course, having Jakob Poeltl backing you up is always a welcome sight.

Of course, this game is much more of a tune up for the first big match up of the season, which is Monday night against San Diego State, also at the Huntsman Center.

Here's some more on the series with SUU, and a little bit about the game Friday night:

FAST BREAKS
> Utah is 8-2 all-time against Southern Utah
> Utah is 152-61 all-time against teams from the Big Sky Conference
> Utah opens the season ranked inside the AP Top-25 for a second straight season
> Utah is 320-101 all-time when playing as a ranked team, which included a 23-9 record last season

THE GAME
The No. 16/16 Utah Runnin' Utes (0-0) officially open the 2015-16 regular season against Southern Utah (0-0) this Friday, Nov. 13 at the Huntsman Center. Tip-off between the Utes and Thunderbirds is set for 8:30 p.m. MT.

FULL COURT FRIDAY
The 2015-16 Pac-12 men's basketball season is tipping off with a bang on Pac-12 Networks with Full Court Friday, Presented by Wendy's on November 13, which features live coverage of nine Pac-12 home openers across seven networks, all in one night.

From 4 p.m. - 11 p.m. PT, the Full Court Friday experience on Pac-12 Network will be available free to fans via the Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com/now, giving fans unauthenticated viewing on their mobile device or computer.

COVERING THE UTES
Friday's contest will be televised live on Pac-12 Mountain. Daron Sutton will provide play-by-play and Casey Jacobsen will offer color commentary for the game. Fans can also follow the game online at www.Pac-12.com/live or via smart phone/tablet by downloading the Pac-12 Now App.

Fans can listen to the broadcast on the Utah Sports Radio Network (ESPN 700). Bill Riley will call the action with the assistance of in-game analyst Jimmy Soto.

Live stats will be provided for Friday's season-opening contest, with links to GameTracker found on-line at www.UtahUtes.com.

GAME PROMOTIONS
Friday's game between the Utes and Thunderbirds is Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Night where the first 1,000 season ticket holders in attendance will receive a free voucher for popcorn, redeemable at the concession stands. Come early and check out the new 3D floor projection. For tickets or more information regarding the game, visit UtahUtes.com.

TIP-OFF
Utah enters its 108th year of Runnin' Utes basketball with an all-time record of 1,733-959 (.644). The Utes have made 28 trips to the NCAA Tournament, which includes the program's 16th NCAA Sweet 16 appearance last season. Utah is in its fifth season with head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who is 68-64 (.515) at the helm of the Utes basketball program.

LAST TIME OUT
Utah hung 100+ points in an exhibition contest for the first time in the Krystkowiak era, downing Cal State Monterey Bay, 124-70, last Thursday evening at the Huntsman Center.

Brandon Taylor scored a team-high 20 points and Kyle Kuzma notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. All 14 Utah players that entered the game scored at least one point on the evening, with a total of six players scoring in double-figures.

ABOUT UTAH
Utah enters the 2015-16 campaign returning 10 letterwinners and four starters from last year's squad that went 26-9 overall and finished in a tie for second-place in the Pac-12 Conference with a record of 13-5.

The Utes earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament last season, making its first appearance in the Big Dance since 2009. The Utes picked up wins over Stephen F. Austin and Georgetown before falling to eventual National Champions, Duke, in the Sweet 16.

ABOUT SOUTHERN UTAH
Southern Utah is coming off a 10-19 overall season in 2014-15. The Thunderbirds went 7-11 in league play and finished the season in 9th place in the Big Sky Conference. SUU was picked to finish fifth in the Big Sky's coaches poll and ninth in the preseason media poll.

The Thunderbirds return all five starters from last season's squad and a total of nine letterwinners. Head coach Nick Robinson is in his fourth season at the helm of the SUU men's basketball program and enters the 2015-16 campaign with an overall record of 23-66.

Senior A.J. Hess returns to the team after leading the Thunderbirds in scoring last season with a 11.7 points per game average. Sophomore James McGee followed with 8.2 points per game.

Senior Casey Oliverson returns as SUU's leading rebounder, after posting 4.1 boards per contest in 2014-15. Oliverson also lead the Thunderbirds in field goal percentage, shooting at a clip of 61.3 percent last season.

HISTORY WITH THE THUNDERBIRDS
The Utes lead the all-time series 8-2, with all 10 meetings having been played in Salt Lake City. The two squads have not met since 2006 and SUU won the contest 76-73.

The Utes have averaged 68.6 points per game in the first 10 meetings, while yielding just 53.4 points per contest to the Thunderbirds.

UTAH IN SEASON-OPENERS
Utah has won it five previous home-openers, which includes a 4-0 record under current head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

The last time a Utah team dropped a season-opener came back in 2009-10, in a 94-87 defeat to Idaho.

Utah is 81-26 all-time in season-openers, which also includes a 73-13 record when the season-opening contest has come at home.