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Utes host CSU late

Utes’ new offense a work in progress

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A month ago, after getting blasted by LSU down in Baton Rouge, Utah coach Rick Majerus decided he had to make some changes to his offense. The Utes looked tentative and were spending too much time passing the ball around the perimeter and not getting it inside to big men Andrew Bogut and Tim Frost.

So the Utes made some changes and revamped their offense.

Since their trip down to the Bayou, the Utes (14-3, 2-0) haven't lost and they'll try to extend their eight-game winning streak tonight when they play Colorado State (8-7, 0-2) in a late-night contest (10 p.m., ESPN) at the Huntsman Center.

According to Majerus, the "oh-fense" as he calls it, is still a work in progress. Players such as seniors Nick Jacobson and Frost and sophomores Tim Drisdom and Richard Chaney are having to learn something different than they ran last year.

"It's not a system we've run before," Majerus said. "We're balancing a fine line here, trying to make sure (the players) don't get too tentative. They're trying to stay within the structure."

Majerus said the Utes "try to go inside all the time" and they succeeded more in Saturday's win than they had all season. Freshman Andrew Bogut scored a career-high 20 points and also grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the 60-49 victory. Whether they'll find similar success tonight is another question.

The Rams are led by 7-foot center Matt Nelson, but he has been plagued by a knee injury and only played four minutes in his team's 82-53 loss to BYU Saturday. So if Nelson doesn't play tonight, the inside should be wide-open for Bogut, especially if coach Dale Layer goes with the same lineup he did in Provo, featuring no players taller than 6-foot-6.

Even though the two players are doubtful, the Utes are going into the game as if the Rams will use Nelson as well as guard Micheal Morris, who hit the last-second 3-pointer last year to upset the Utes 66-65 at the Huntsman Center, but has sat out two games with an injured hamstring.

"I know they'll be really tough," said Majerus. "I'll tell you what, they beat a helluva Purdue team that was nationally ranked. They're talented and it will be a very difficult game for us."

If Nelson and Morris don't play, the Ram starting lineup will likely consist of 6-5 Freddy Robinson (9.5 ppg) and 6-6 Matt Williams (11.0) at forwards and 5-10 Derrick Stevens (3.1 ppg), 6-3 Jon Rakiecki (6.8 ppg) and 6-3 Shelton Johnson (6.2 ppg) at guards. Ronnie Clark, a 6-5 senior, averages 9.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg off the bench and will likely see a lot of action.

"We're a bad basketball team right now," Layer told the Denver Post after the big loss to BYU, CSU's third straight. "We had guys playing out of position. We've struggled against good teams and could hide (the shortcomings) against poor teams. We're not in sync."

After tonight's game, the Utes head out on the road for games Saturday at New Mexico and Monday at Air Force.

Utes on the air

Colorado State (8-7, 0-2)

vs. Utah (14-3, 2-0)

Tonight at 10 p.m.


Radio: KALL 700 AM

E-MAIL: sor@desnews.com