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Utah Utes basketball: Improved team seek consistency

SAN DIEGO — Coming off a 66-61 win over UNLV on Wednesday night, the Utah basketball team doesn't want a repeat of what happened last time after the Utes beat the Rebels.

After winning in Las Vegas last month, the Utes three days later played poorly in a 70-68 loss to San Diego State.

"That's been our problem," said Ute forward Carlon Brown. "We'll feel good about a big win and come out the next game and not play as good, sort of lackadaisical and complacent. So we've got to take this win and forget about it as we get ready to play San Diego State."

Although the Utes only lost to the Aztecs by two, they played one of their worst games of the year in shooting just 36 percent, committing 13 turnovers and allowing 19 offensive rebounds.

On Thursday, the Utes spent an hour watching film of last month's debacle and then practiced on three main things in preparation for tonight — their transition defense, defensive rebounding and offensive execution.

"We can't turn it over for touchdowns, we must defensive rebound the ball and we need to execute on offense," said Ute coach Jim Boylen.

The Utes would also like to push the ball and get fast breaks of their own as they did at times against UNLV.

"I thought our energy to start the game and push up the floor was awesome," Boylen said.

While the Utes feel they are much improved since last month's game with everyone at full strength for the past couple of weeks, the Aztecs are playing very well right now also. San Diego State has won three straight and is coming off a 68-51 victory at TCU on 60.9 percent shooting.

"They're playing as well as anybody in the league," said Boylen. "Their physicality and athleticism is always a concern."

SDSU has one of the best rebounding teams in the league, led by Kawhi Leonard, who averages 9.4 rebounds per game as well as 12.7 points. Malcolm Thomas, who had a monster game at the Huntsman Center with 23 points and 13 rebounds, averages 10.2 points and 8.0 rebounds.

Point guard D.J. Gay scores 10.3 points and leads the team in assists (3.0 per game), while Billy White, who wasn't playing at full strength in the earlier game at Utah, averages 11.0 points and 4.9 rebounds.

San Diego State has not swept a season series with Utah since 1982. SDSU coach Steve Fisher is aware of that and said he has plenty of respect for the Utes.

"We face a really, really good Utah team, which is playing very good basketball," Fisher said. "We're facing a good team that has a lot to play for, just as we do. They come with high respect from our camp."

Boylen expects to start the same lineup as the last game with Luka Drca, Marshall Henderson, Jace Tavita, Shawn Glover and David Foster with Carlon Brown and Jay Watkins seeing considerable time off the bench.

"We've got to get one back — they got one from us here (in Salt Lake City), so we've got to be better down there," said Boylen. "They'll be ready for us and we'll be ready for them."

The Utes have another road game on Wednesday at Air Force, before returning home for a pair of games Feb. 27 against Wyoming and March 3 against BYU.

e-mail: sor@desnews.com

Utes on the air

Utah (12-13, 5-6 MWC) at SDSU (19-7, 8-4)

Tonight, 7 p.m. MST

Viejas Arena, San Diego

TV: The mtn., CBS-C Radio: 700 AM