In some ways, Cedric Martin, Javon Dawson and Dijon Farr represent their own little team within the Utah men's basketball team.
They were the three junior college players who joined the Utes after last year's roster was emptied like the Titanic. Each is either from the South or played at a junior college in the region (or, in the case of Dawson, both).
And they have been three of the most puzzling players on the Utah roster. It made sense, then, that they each had breakout games Friday in Utah's 71-59 win over Idaho State.
"We're starting to feel more comfortable," Martin said.
He led the Utes with a career-high 19 points, while Farr (16) and Dawson (6) also had career scoring nights.
It was a significant development for the Utes, who won despite an off night (three points, eight rebounds) from leading scorer Josh Watkins. Utah is aiming for its second straight win Monday against the University of Portland at the Huntsman Center.
First-year coach Larry Krystkowiak has long held that the transfers and freshmen who make up much of the Utes' roster would need extra time to get acclimated.
"There's some really good juco guys all around the country that went to great programs," Krystkowiak said, "and they're not playing."
Martin is considered a defensive specialist, one of just two players (along with center Jason Washburn) to start all 10 of the Utes' games this season. Against the Bengals, he made 5 of 9 3-point attempts. Both he and Farr, a slasher and a good midrange shooter, have shown flashes of excellence in the first third of the season.
Dawson, though, has been a bit more of a mystery.
The 6-foot-6 forward from Cordele, Ga., nicknamed "Big Country," has been in and out of the Utes' rotation, including a three-game November stretch in which he played no more than nine minutes.
The past two games, he has been an energizing force for Utah, particularly in the comeback against Idaho State.
"I think it all started with Big Country really getting in there and being scrappy," Washburn said. "It's inspiring to see a teammate do that, and we turned it on."
Dawson made back-to-back baskets in the second half against Idaho State that jump-started a 24-6 run for the Utes that turned a 43-35 deficit into a 59-49 lead.
Utah vs. University of Portland
P At Huntsman Center
Tipoff • Monday, 7 p.m.
Radio • 700 AM
Records • Utah 2-8, Portland 3-8
Series record • Portland 1-0
Last meeting • Portland 88-79 (Dec. 31, 2010)
About the Utes • Utah got its second win of the season and first against a Division I opponent Friday when it beat Idaho State 71-59. ... Point guard Josh "Jiggy" Watkins averages 15.7 points per game, but he was held to just three against Idaho State on Friday. Watkins' average is tied for the fourth best among Pac-12 players. ... Center Jason Washburn had 17 points and eight rebounds against Idaho State. ... After starting seven of the Utes' first eight games, freshman forward Blake Wilkinson was moved to the bench against BYU. He played a season-low four minutes against Idaho State.
About the Pilots • Portland is 3-8 amid a difficult preseason schedule that included losses to Washington, Kentucky, Montana and Rick Majerus' St. Louis Billikens. ... Sophomore forward Ryan Nicholas leads the Pilots with 11.5 points per game. Senior guard Nemanja Mitrovic scored 21 points against the Utes last season and averages 9.5 points.