SALT LAKE CITY — On Dec. 16, the Runnin' Utes snapped an eight-game slide on their home floor against Idaho State with a 71-59 victory.
Utah (5-22, 2-13) will look to end another eight-game losing streak on its home floor Saturday, when the Utes face Stanford (19-9, 9-7) in their final home game of the season.
The Utes haven't had a whole lot of success at winning games this season, but what little success they have had has come within the confines of the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
"When you struggle on the road, you come home and that’s home, your safe haven," junior center Jason Washburn said. "Especially with this team, because we haven’t gotten a road win, we’ve competed that much better at home. In conference, I think we’ve competed at our highest level at home, and really gave it our all. We’re almost a different team at home. This is our last chance to play in front of our fans, our last chance to give our fans a win this season, so we’re going to play our hardest."
Junior guard Chris Hines leads the Utes in scoring since Pac-12 play kicked off on Dec. 31, with 11.2 points per game. He scored a team-high 15 points Thursday night against Cal, as well as a season-high 21 in the last meeting with Stanford at Palo Alto on Jan. 12. Hines has eclipsed double figures in eight of the last nine contests.
Washburn is the high scorer for the duration of the season, averaging 10.6 points. He also leads the team in rebounds, with 6.3 per game. Washburn ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in field-goal efficiency, hitting 55.6 percent from the floor.
Junior guard Cedric Martin is scoring 11.8 points over the last five games, and has recorded career highs in both rebounding and assists over the last three games. He dished out seven dimes on Feb. 11 versus Arizona, then nabbed eight boards Thursday against Cal.
Utah will hope to bring its best effort to get a win for the home fans, against a Stanford team that has been on a roller coaster ride this season.
The Cardinal kicked off conference play winning five of its first six match-ups, including a Jan. 12 win over the Utes. It followed that up by losing five of the next six, falling to .500 in the Pac-12. Stanford has now begun to bounce back by winning three of the last four contests, including a 74-50 drubbing of Colorado Thursday night in Boulder.
Three Stanford players average double figures, led by freshman guard Chasson Randle with 12.8 points per game. Senior forward Josh Owens scores 12.4, while leading the team in rebounds with six per contest. Sophomore guard Aaron Bright averages 11.2 while leading the Cardinal in assists with 3.7.
The Utes took Stanford to the wire in their first meeting this season, before falling in a 68-65 decision that featured Utah hitting just 11.1 percent (1-of-9) from the free throw line.
"We can compete with tough teams," Washburn said. "We almost took one in Stanford. We almost stole the victory there, and now they’re coming to us, so we’ll see what happens."
Despite the adversity, the Utes feel confident going into their final home game knowing they have nothing to lose.
"We really don’t have any pressure on us, because you can see by our record," Martin said. "There’s not a lot of pressure on us. We just know we need to come out there and give it our all. We’ve been through the 40-point blow outs, we’ve been through the close games, and we had a couple wins. So we know what to do."
Utah will try to avoid its largest losing streak during a season of losing streaks. After beating San Diego Christian in the season opener, the Utes lost eight straight. After subsequently snatching two victories over Idaho State and Portland, Utah then lost six of the next seven, before beating Arizona State on Jan. 21 in the Hunstman Center. Since that distant win, the Utes have again lost eight straight.
Another big home win to snap a rough slide in front of the long-suffering fans would be the perfect feel-good story to finish off the season for the Utes.
"We’ve got our home crowd," Martin said, "and we’re just coming along together as a team."
The game tips off at 6:30 p.m. and will air on the radio at 700 AM.