Utah hosts Tommies in last nonleague tune-up

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With its Pac-12 schedule quickly approaching, the University of Utah men’s basketball team will host St. Thomas (Minn.) on Saturday night at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City for a nonconference tune-up.

The Utes (4-2) enter the game against the Tommies (5-2) after going 1-2 in the Ft. Myers Tip-Off, with a win over Georgia Tech sandwiched by losses to Sam Houston State and Mississippi State.

Despite the losses, Utah coach Craig Smith says he is pleased with the trajectory of his team as it nears Thursday’s Pac-12 season-opener against Arizona. He hopes to keep that trend going against the Tommies.

“We will keep climbing,” Smith said. “I am really excited about the future of this team.”

Branden Carlson leads the Utes in scoring with 13.0 points per game and 2.3 blocks. Carlson, however, is coming off a scoreless campaign in which he missed all six of his shots.

Ben Carlson (not related) led Utah against Mississippi State with 10 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes, a performance that caught his coach’s attention. It was his second double-digit-scoring outing this season.

“Ben Carlson has made monster steps from where he was three weeks ago to where he was today,” Smith said. “I thought he was really good tonight.”

The Tommies of St. Paul, Minn., are making their longest road trip of the season to take on Utah for the first-ever meeting of the programs.

St. Thomas, fresh off of a 76-72 win over Milwaukee in Wisconsin, has three consecutive wins for the first time since joining NCAA Division I last season, when they made the jump from Div. III.

Their game against Utah presents an interesting matchup. Utah is allowing opponents to shoot only 32.6 percent from the field, fourth lowest in the country. The Tommies are shooting 50 percent for the season.

St. Thomas averages nearly 10 3-point baskets per game, which is four more than Utah.

Riley Miller leads the Tommies with 15.6 points per game, with three other players averaging in double figures.

–Field Level Media

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