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Runnin' Utes hitting the road to face No. 13 Xavier

Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak calls players in for a time out during the game against the Utah Valley Wolverines at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016.
Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak calls players in for a time out during the game against the Utah Valley Wolverines at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016.
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CINCINNATI — After opening the season with seven straight home games, the Utah Utes are finally hitting the road. They’ll face 13th-ranked Xavier Saturday at the Cintas Center.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak noted that the Musketeers are a handful.

“That’s a well-oiled machine that can very easily be a Final Four team,” he said.

Krystkowiak explained that Xavier has a number of guys back and is good in all facets of the game — point-guard play, shooting, post presence, rebounding and defense.

“There’s really not any chinks in their armor that I know of, at this point, that you can go in and try to exploit,” he said.

The Musketeers (7-2) are led by junior Trevon Bluiett and senior Edmond Sumner. The guards average 19.3 points and 14.6 points, respectively. Senior forward RaShid Gaston is another player to watch. He made 7 of 8 shots from the field Wednesday at Colorado, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Xavier, though, dropped a 68-66 decision to the Buffaloes in Boulder. It followed a 76-61 defeat at Baylor on Dec. 3. The Musketeers were 7-0 before the setbacks.

Head coach Chris Mack said the losses were a “reality check” for his squad.

“Our team has got to grow up from these type of experiences,” he continued. “Because they’re not fun.”

Returning home could be just what Xavier needs at this point.

“It’s a heck of a basketball environment,” Krystkowiak said of going to the Cintas Center. “It’ll be an unbelievable challenge for us.”

Utah (6-1) is coming off an 87-80 win over Utah Valley on Tuesday. The Utes rallied from a three-point deficit in the final two minutes to prevail. JoJo Zamora had a team-high 17 points and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line. Kyle Kuzma added a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds as part of a balanced attack that included 14 points apiece by Tyler Rawson and Lorenzo Bonham, as well as 11 points from Parker Van Dyke.

“We didn’t get out of the gates very well,” Krystkowiak said. “But I’m proud of the way we recovered.”

EXTRA STUFF: This is the first meeting between Utah and Xavier . . . The Utes lead the nation with 47.7 rebounds per game. Kuzma (11 rpg) is 16th overall . . . Xavier has graduated 100 consecutive seniors dating back to 1985-86 . . . Utah is 0-1 against the Big East this season, having dropped a 68-59 decision to Butler on Nov. 28.

*****

Utah (6-1) at No. 13 Xavier (7-2)

Cintas Center, Cincinnati

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: FOX

Radio: ESPN 700AM

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer