The Utes (5-1) will welcome Utah Valley University (5-2) to the Huntsman Center on Tuesday night for an in-state showdown. Utah got back into the win column last Thursday, beating Montana State 92-84, pushing Larry Krystkowiak to his 100th victory as Utah’s head coach. Tuesday’s game will be the first ever game between Utah and Utah Valley on the basketball court.
Utah Valley is winners of five of their past six, including a 13 point win over BYU at the Marriot Center. Utah Valley will be hoping to lay claim as the best college team in Utah after beating the Cougars already. A win over Utah at the Huntsman Center would be a statement win and prove what happened down in Provo earlier this season was no fluke.
As a team, Utah Valley shoots 43% from the field and is 33rd in the country in points per game, averaging 84.3. Defensively the Wolverines have struggled, giving up 79.6 points per game ranking them 305th in the country.
The Utes will see a familiar face tonight in Kenneth Ogbe, as he returns to the Huntsman Center for the first time since transferring out of the program. Ogbe is UVU’s best player, leading the team in scoring with 15.6 points per game. The 6-6 junior has been lights out from three point range, knocking down 66% of his shots from deep.
Sophomore guard Connor Toolson is right behind Ogbe in scoring, averaging 15.4 points. Junior forward Isaac Neilson is similar to Ogbe having transferred from BYU to UVU. He also averages double digits in scoring with 12.4 points per game along with 9.6 rebounds per game.
Utah will be looking to build on their 5-1 start and hopefully get some more offensive consistency going this game. Kyle Kuzma has established himself as the best player on the team thus far, leading the team with 16.5 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game. Lorenzo Bonam contributes heavily in the scoring department as well, with 15.2 points per game and freshman guard Devon Daniels had has shown promise, averaging 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Utah is still looking for someone to step up as a “go to guy” that can carry the team. The addition of Sedrick Barefield and David Collette later in the season may help solve that need.
Utah Valley has talented players like Ogbe and Neilson who were recruited to play for high level programs, where it just didn’t work out. If they are clicking, they can be dangerous, as evidenced by their unexpected upset of BYU. In that game, Neilson went off for a career high 26 points against his former team. Utah will need to make sure Ogbe does not have a similar performance. Utah plays better defensively than BYU does however and should be able to slow down Ogbe the Wolverines. Despite Utah’s inconsistency on offense, UVU’s defense is weak enough that Utah should be able to find some rythym and come out with the win.
Tip off is at 6pm at the Huntsman Center. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks and radio broadcast will be on ESPN 700.