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Utes take on 4th West Coast team: St. Mary’s

Last year, Utah escaped with a 41-35 victory

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The Utah basketball team's West Coast Conference schedule ends tonight when the Utes take on Saint Mary's College at 7 at the Huntsman Center.

The Gaels will be the fourth WCC team the Utes have faced this season after previously taking on Gonzaga at the Maui Invitational and Pepperdine and San Diego on a road swing two weeks ago.

Tonight's contest will be a rematch of last year's game in Moraga, Calif., where the Utes won the battle of anemic offenses with a 41-35 victory in a game that almost set college basketball back 75 years. The Utes shot just 37 percent that night, while the Gaels managed just 27 percent.

This time around, the Utes (9-3) hope they at least score 50 points, but they'd love to hold the Gaels to a similar point total and shooting percentage as last year. And the way they're playing lately, they just might.

The Utes are one of the top defensive teams in college basketball, holding opponents to just 57.4 points a game, which ranks ninth in the nation. Since coming home from Maui, where they allowed 71 against Gonzaga and 83 in overtime against Arizona State, the Utes have allowed just one team to score more than 60 points (Pepperdine with 61) and have given up just 54.4 points per game during those eight games.

Utah is also allowing opponents just 39.5 percent shooting from the field, their best defense since 1998-99 when the Utes held opponents to a 39.5 field goal shooting percentage for the season.

"We've done a great job defensively," said Utah coach Rick Majerus. "This is a very young, inexperienced team, but they've played hard every game."

The Gaels come into tonight's game with a 7-5 record with wins in their last two games over a pair of Ivy League opponents, Brown and Yale. They are just 0-3 on the road this year with losses at Eastern Washington, Fresno State and Stanford.

Junior forward Chris Poole leads the Gaels in scoring (13.7 ppg), rebounding (7.4 rpg) and steals (25). Freshman forward Daniel Kickert is second in scoring (12.9 ppg), while junior guard Tyler Herr averages 11.0 ppg. Senior guard Samuel Saint-Jean averages 4.7 assists per game.

GAME NOTES: There's no local TV coverage of tonight's game . . . Last year's Utah-Saint Mary's game was tied 19-19 at halftime — the same score as last week's Utah-Alabama game . . . Utah plays two more home games — Saturday against IPFW and Tuesday against Ripon College — before starting Mountain West Conference play . . . The Utes are still waiting to hear some good news about Australian recruit Andrew Bogut.

E-MAIL: sor@desnews.com