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Sunny days ahead for U.

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With no school to worry about for the entire month, the Utah basketball team is getting out of town for most of February.

While many Utahns will be braving the cold to see Olympic events such as skiing, skating and bobsled racing, the Utes will be enjoying sunny climes of San Diego, Las Vegas and St. George.

The Utes leave the day after Monday night's Wyoming game for San Diego, where they'll stay for four days prior to the Feb. 9 San Diego State game. They'll move up to Las Vegas for the Feb. 11 game and stay in town (away from the casinos, of course) until returning to Salt Lake for the two games Feb. 16 and 18 against Air Force and New Mexico.

Then after their fourth Big Monday game in a row, they'll head down to St. George for the rest of that week before coming north again for the BYU game in Provo Feb. 23.

While it sounds nice, you can bet the Ute players and coaches won't be playing golf and lying on beaches or by pools. But at least the weather will be warm and there won't be large crowds of Olympic visitors to contend with.

The Utes will stay in hotels during their stays away from home and practice in various high school and college gyms as well as the arenas they'll play in.

WAKE-UP CALL: Neither Travis Spivey nor Rick Majerus has spoken much about Spivey's one-game suspension earlier this month, which resulted from a verbal confrontation between the two in practice.

However, Spivey did talk about the effects the suspension has had on his game.

"It kind of woke me up not getting to go with my teammates (to the St. Mary's game)," he said. "It made me really understand how much I love the game. We've gotten together and had some meetings (as a team) and are trying to take it all the way."

Majerus has never addressed the suspension, but he's made a point of praising Spivey for his play of late.

"He's been playing really well and doesn't receive the notoriety and credit he deserves," said Majerus after Monday's victory over BYU. "He's solid in so many ways."

In MWC play, Spivey is averaging 6.6 points, 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds, while shooting 48 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and 75 pecent from the free-throw line.

SAD FOR CHRIS: Last Friday Chris Burgess practiced with the Utes and everyone in the Ute camp was optimistic about his chances of returning. However Saturday he had to leave practice early and then couldn't practice Sunday. Now it looks unlikely Burgess will be able to play in the next two Ute games.

"There are no expectations for him to be back any time soon," said Majerus. "He won't practice this week and I've never played anyone who didn't practice."

Majerus is especially sad for Burgess because he's been hurt all three years at Utah. Burgess sat out most of his redshirt season with a bad back and missed a couple of weeks last year with a broken ankle.

"It breaks my heart, because he's such a good kid," Majerus said. "He's been hurt every single year here. I feel so bad for him. He deserves a chance. He really wants to be part of this team. He really likes the guys and they like him. It's just sad, it's a damn sad case."

UTE NOTES: Following Monday night's victory over BYU, the Utes have leaped to No. 13 in the latest CollegeRPI.com rankings, which are updated daily. A high ranking in the RPI bodes well for the Utes' NCAA chances in the event they don't earn an automatic berth . . . Despite Monday's 4-for-18 performance from 3-point range, the Utes still lead the nation in 3-point shooting at 43.5 percent. Illinois-Chicago is second at 42.6 percent . . . Utah is 11th in scoring defense (60.2 points allowed per game) and 23rd in field goal percentage (48.0 pct.) . . . Nick Jacobson is still fifth in the nation in 3-point shooting at 51 percent, despite his 1-for-5 night against BYU. He did drop out of the top 30 in 3-pointers per game after sinking just one in the last two games.


E-mail: sor@desnews.com