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Runnin' Utes to see a familiar face when they play Utah Valley

Utah Valley guard Kenneth Ogbe (25) celebrates with guard Jordan Poydras (10) after Poydras made a bucket while being fouled by a Brigham Young player during an NCAA college basketball game in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Utah Valley was 18 of 37 fro
Utah Valley guard Kenneth Ogbe (25) celebrates with guard Jordan Poydras (10) after Poydras made a bucket while being fouled by a Brigham Young player during an NCAA college basketball game in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Utah Valley was 18 of 37 from beyond the arc en route to a 114-101 ousting of Brigham Young.
Nick Wagner, Nick Wagner

SALT LAKE CITY — Although Utah will be facing Utah Valley for the first time Tuesday night in the Huntsman Center, the Utes know some of the Wolverines quite well — especially their leading scorer.

Junior guard Kenneth Ogbe, who began his college career at Utah, is now doing big things for UVU. He leads the Wolverines in scoring with 15.6 points per game and tops the nation in 3-point shooting (.677 percentage).

“It’s a good story,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “Kenneth struggled here with his health for a couple of years and, you know, I didn’t think he was going to get back.”

Krystkowiak added that the prognosis for Ogbe, who battled multiple injuries during a 57-game career with the Utes, wasn’t good from physicians and guys who make those decisions. Ogbe would endure months of rehab, come back and then not be able to play.

“I’ve been there as a player with an injury,” Krystkowiak said.

Ogbe, though, worked his way back.

“I’m proud of Kenneth for battling through it and getting through it. I am surprised,” said Krystkowiak, who acknowledged that he would have liked Ogbe to have done so at Utah. “When we kind of shut the book on him playing here we wanted to get him his degree and maybe he could get back to Germany and play professionally.”

The 6-foot-6 junior, who averaged 3.7 points and shot 42.6 percent from the field at Utah, had other plans. He wanted to give college basketball another try.

“So he did a heck of a job in the summer, taking an unbelievable load to get his degree and he stayed within our state. He loves the state of Utah and he’s doing a great job,” Krystkowiak said. “So I’m not excited about playing against him. I’m very excited for him and proud of him that he’s healthy and enjoying himself.”

Even so, the latter doesn’t overshadow the business at hand.

“We’re going to have to be ready to go try to guard him,” Krystkowiak said.

It’s an approach the coach acknowledged the Utes (5-1) must take against the Wolverines (5-2). They hit 18 3-pointers in a 114-101 win over BYU in the Marriott Center on Nov. 26.

“They have a lot of different weapons and they play at an extremely fast tempo,” said Krystkowiak, who noted that Mark Pope is doing a nice job coaching the Wolverines. “They’ve got a bunch of high-powered guys.”

Krystkowiak noted that UVU is playing a little bit of BYU’s style of getting up and down the floor.

The Utes, he continued, have got to be ready to go and ready to guard.

Conner Toolson scored 29 points in the Wolverines’ 75-71 win over UTSA last Saturday.

As far as Utah’s preparation is concerned, Krystkowiak said last Thursday’s 92-84 win over Montana State is helpful. The Bobcats have a somewhat similar style to UVU.

“So not a whole lot is going to change moving forward with UVU except maybe the talent level,” Krystkowiak said.

Besides Ogbe, the Wolverines also have a pair of assistant coaches that are Utah alums — Chris Burgess and Cody Fueger.

*****

Utah Valley (5-2) at Utah (5-1)

Huntsman Center

Tuesday, 6 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: ESPN 700AM

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer