Utah basketball: Utes ready to face stiffer competition
Utah's season to this point has been steady in its incremental climb in competition and competency of the opponents coming through the Huntsman Center.
The test now gets bigger for the Utes.
Wednesday's matchup at Southern Methodist and Friday's game at Texas State will be the first and only time coach Larry Krystkowiak's group steps out of the state before Pac-12 play. With a 4-1 record that includes an impressive win over Wright State, Utah feels pretty good about the direction it's heading in, although it's very early.
"We haven't been in an airport or anything since our Brazil trip over the summer," Krystkowiak said. "So this will be a major road trip for us. We are going to have to create our own energy. We are going to have to respond when the crowd gets excited. We're going to have to be tough."
Playing the Mustangs, who are coached by hall of famer Larry Brown, promises to be a difficult challenge.
Thought to be a rebuilding job when Brown took the helm, the Mustangs have proved to be decent in his short tenure. They enter Wednesday's matchup with a 6-1 record that includes a double-digit win over Loyola Marymount.
Krystkowiak had the conference slate in mind when putting together the schedule, which is why he set up the two games a day apart. He wanted to simulate the Pac-12 schedule as closely as he could. And while SMU plays at a deliberate pace, WAC member Texas State thrives in transition.
"We have to play mistake-free basketball," Krystkowiak said. "If we do that, we give ourselves a chance. I'm anxious to see how we respond."
The Utes figure to be an underdog against SMU, but are likely to receive a boost from Aaron Dotson's expected season debut. Dotson, the projected starting small forward before the season began, has missed the entire schedule after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his foot.
He has recovered quicker than expected and practiced Monday and Tuesday. Krystkowiak has labeled him as probable for Wednesday night. Senior forward Cedric Martin still is expected to start, but Dotson probably will see minutes against the Mustangs.
"From knowing him so long, he really helps us a lot," Utah point guard Glen Dean said. "He's an explosive athlete, and he will give us a scorer from the perimeter. He's one of those guys who is just a ballplayer."
Utah at SMU
P Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Where • Moody Coliseum, Dallas
TV • None
Radio • 700 AM
Records • SMU 5-1, Utah 4-1
Series • Utah leads 3-0
About the Mustangs • Kansas State transfer Nick Russell leads SMU, averaging 16 points per game. â¦ SMU coach Larry Brown once coached in the then Pac-10 Conference, leading UCLA to the 1980 national title game. â¦ SMU went 3-1 in four games last week, including a win over Missouri State. â¦ The Mustangs will move to the Big East Conference next season.
About the Utes • Utah currently leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing 54.4 points per game. â¦ Utah is coming off three consecutive double-digit wins. â¦ Aaron Dotson is probable to make his season-debut Wednesday. â¦ Freshman Jordan Loveridge scored a career-high 22 points in the win over Wright State.