clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


The Arizona State Sun Devils have played 32 games this season, but they have yet to see anything quite like the University of Utah Utes - the team they will meet tonight in Tempe in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

"They are a very slow, deliberate team," says ASU assistant coach Lynn Archibald, the former Ute head coach. "We haven't played a team like them. Stanford might be the closest, but they push the ball more than they (the Utes) do."Tonight's game, which will begin at 8:05, might well be decided by the team that can force its preferred style of play upon the other - Utah's deliberate half-court game, or ASU's up-tempo game.

"We have to try to press them and try to break," says Archibald. "We'll do what we always do. We'll get after them."

The Utes, meanwhile, will do what they always do - defend and rebound. They can only hope that their shooting is adequate enough to survive.

Who's hot? Guard Byron Wilson has scored between 15 and 21 points in the last six games - and averaged 15 points in the last 11 games. Reserve center Antoine Davison has totaled 20 points and 13 rebounds in spot duty the last two games. Phil Dixon, recovering from a lengthy slump, made all six of his shots last time out (all from long distance) and has scored at least 13 points in four straight games.

Who's not? After going on a rampage throughout most of the conference season, center Paul Afeaki has been quiet the last four games.

The Utes are limping, but what else is new? Forward M'Kay McGrath, still recovering from a sprained ankle, played just five minutes against Ball State last weekend. "He looked terrible," said Utah coach Rick Majerus. "I pulled him out. He just couldn't play." Afeaki sprained an ankle during warmups for the Ball State game, and Craig Rydalch has been recovering from a knee injury, but both should be ready for tonight's game, which could be the last of their collegiate careers.

The Sun Devils have at least a couple of things in common with the Utes. Like the Utes, they substitute frequently. Eight players average at least seven points per game. They also are a poor shooting team - 44.7 percent (to Utah's 45.6). Despite their preference for up-tempo offense, they have averaged only 68.8 points per game this season (while allowing 69.3). They could have problems against the Ute defense, which allows just 61 points and 40 percent shooting on an average night.

"Utah's a very good defensive team," says Archibald. "They mix up their defenses."

The 21-10 Utes, who tied for fourth place in the Western Athletic Conference, are 8-8 in NIT play. They advanced to the semifinals of the NIT in 1974 but failed to survive the first round in 1987 and '88. The 19-13 Sun Devils, who tied for fifth place in the Pac 10, are making their third-straight NIT appearance.

"One thing we have is a good road record (7-5)," says Majerus. "We are used to winning on the road."

ASU's lineup will consist of 6-foot Lynn Collins and 6-2 Stevin Smith at guards, 6-6 Lester Neal at center, and 6-5 Dwayne Fontana and 6-9 Mario Bennett at forwards. Sophomore Jamal Faulkner, a former starter who now is a reserve, leads the team in scoring with a 12.8 average. Bennett averages 12.1 points.

Utah's lineup will consist of 6-5 Thomas Wyatt and the 6-5 McGrath at forwards, 6-10 Afeaki at center, and 6-foot Tyrone Tate and 6-5 Dixon at guards. Wilson leads the team in scoring with a 12-point average, followed closely by Afeaki (11.5) and reserve guard Jimmy Soto (11.3).