The Utah men’s basketball team played without one of its big men off the bench on Friday night. Sophomore center Jayce Johnson sat out the season opener against Prairie View A&M as he recovers from an ankle injury.

The 7-foot, 235-pound former California high school standout played in all 32 games for the Utes as a freshman last season and started six games. He averaged 4.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game.

“It kind of makes me mad, but ...” Johnson said Thursdayr. “I’ve been working really hard to keep up my conditioning and lifting, but it just really makes me made that I have to miss the first game. I’d rather my ankle get better than sacrifice something down the line.”

Johnson, who missed several days of practice this week with the ankle injury, said he thought he’d be able to play by Monday’s game at home against Mississippi Valley State. He was able to resume running on Thursday.

The Utes’ starting lineup for the season opener featured guard Justin Bibbins, guard Sedrick Barefield, guard Gabe Bealer, Forward David Collette and forward Tyler Rawson. Chris Seeley served as the first frontcourt player off the bench.

Just win, baby

The Utes will play three games in the first seven days of the season and six games within the first 13 days.

If you thought so many games in a short period of time meant coach Larry Krystkowiak might lean more heavily on experienced players — or conversely might make it a point to use these opportunities to get more of a feel for the newcomers — that’s not in the cards.

“I’m not putting any preconceived with that whatsoever,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s always about winning, figuring out a way to win the next [segment]. We break each game down into four-minute segments. We’ve got non-negotiables in our program that guys are going to have to do. It’s nothing personal.”

MUSS see action

The men’s basketball program started a new incentive program aimed in increasing turnout among the student section.

This year, students were asked to sign up for the Mighty Utah Student Section using their smart phones. Gift certificates were given to the first 300 students to register, and Krysktowiak said he believed close to 600 students had signed up as of mid-week.

During each home game, Krysktowiak said they’re planning on to have him give $100 to a student drawn at random. Students can use their phones to log in when they’re at games, and their attendance will be tracked. As they reach benchmarks for attendance they will earn chances to win a drawing at the end of the season for prizes included tuition for a year, tuition for a semester or $500.