When the Utah Utes visit Moby Arena Saturday, they’re planning on brining a little bit of down under with them.
Well, more like a lot of down under.
Seven-foot-one Australian native Luke Nevill anchors the Utes (11-8, 2-4 MWC) inside game with the kind of authority that being the Mountain West’s tallest player can afford.
“We have no true 4 (power forward), so we’re outmanned some,” CSU coach Tim Miles said. “The biggest thing is just staying down and making him score through us.”
In 20 games this season, Nevill is averaging 14.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. In last week’s loss to Wyoming, the Aussie picked up a season-high 26 points and nine rebounds.
Stepping up to face Nevill for CSU (6-14, 0-6 MWC) will be 7-foot sophomore Ronnie Aguilar, as regular starter Stuart Creason still has at least 10 days until he can play on his stress fractured foot. Even without Creason, Aguilar has held his own in conference play this season, averaging 7.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in the Mountain West.
“In high school I played against this guy who was 7-5,” Aguilar said. “I’m not worried about it or anything because I know that I’m faster than most guys my size.”
The perimeter game should see a good battle as well, as CSU standout Marcus Walker will look to slow the onslaught of Ute sixth-man Jonnie Bryant. Bryant has not started a game yet this season, but averages 25.1 minutes and 13.5 points per game (second only to Nevill for the team high).
Walker, a high-energy shooter and adopted Ram leader, has maintained his conference scoring barrage every time he has stepped on the court this season, averaging a MWC-high 18.4 points per game. In conference play that number jumps to 23.7 PPG, almost three times as many points as any other Ram.
For all the scoring, it’s been a tough road of late for the green and gold, as they’ve lost every game in January and 11 of their last 12. Last Tuesday the Rams lost a heartbreaker to San Diego State, 83-82, when a last-second look by junior guard Willis Gardner rimmed out.
The last time CSU was in such a close game, they lost by three (65-62) to Nevada-Las Vegas on Jan. 5. The hangover from that game led to an overtime tailspin loss to Oklahoma Panhandle State (97-91) from which the team has yet to recover.
Walker said that this time around the team will be more prepared to come out strong after the tough loss.
“Coach isn’t going to let us do that,” Walker said. “We’ve had good, quality practices. Coach isn’t going to allow us to take practice lightly.”
Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Moby Arena.
Super Bowl Predictions –
Adam Nigon: Patriots 34, Giants 20
Plans: “Just, chill – hopefully have a day off.”
Andre McFarland: Patriots 23, Giants 17
Plans: “Probably get together with some teammates.”
Marcus Walker: Patriots 35, Giants 17
Plans: “Super Bowl Sunday.I’m going to probably cook and have some of my teammates over.” On the menu? “Catfish, baked potatoes, corn, and pork chops.”
Coach Tim Miles: Giants in a rout
Plans: We’re gonna have some coaches over for some festivities
Projected Starters –
PG – Willis Gardener, 6-1, 11.7 PPG
SG – Marcus Walker, 6-0, 18.4 PPG
SF – Adam Nigon, 6-3, 2.6 PPG
PF – Andre McFarland, 6-6, 7.6
C – Ronnie Aguilar, 7-0, 4.2 PPG
PG – Tyler Kepkay, 6-0, 9.5 PPG
SG – Carlon Brown, 6-4, 3.7 PPG
SF – Lawrence Borha, 6-3, 7.6 PPG
PF – Sean Green, 6-8, 8.3 PPG
C – Luke Nevill, 7-1, 14.3 PPG