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SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah men's basketball team will host Findlay, last year's NCAA Div. II national champions, in an exhibition game Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for noon at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The Utes are running a special two-for-one promotion Saturday, as any fan who shows a ticket for the Utah vs. New Mexico football game later that day will receive free admission to the exhibition game.
Utah enters its third year under the leadership of head coach Jim Boylen and is coming off a 24-10 season that saw the Runnin' Utes capture both the Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament titles, and make an NCAA tournament appearance for the first time since 2005.
The Utes return three starters from last year's squad, including senior guard Luka Drca (7.7 ppg, 3.5 apg), senior forward Kim Tillie (3.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) junior guard/forward Carlon Brown, the top returning scorer and rebounder (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg). All three will be charged with stepping up on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as the Utes look to replace the 50.2 points per game lost by last year's graduating seniors.
Sophomores Jordan Cyphers and Jace Tavita and played meaningful minutes off the bench last year and will now be expected to take larger roles on this year's team. The return of sophomore David Foster from a two-year LDS mission could be a key for this team as the 7-foot-3 center looks to fill the low-post void left by four-year starter Luke Nevill.
Three other players who have been in Boylen's system for at least one year are last season's redshirts: freshmen Jason Washburn, Chris Hines and sophomore Tre Smith.
Utah's newcomers include junior college transfers Matt Read, Ricky Shoff and Jay Watkins, all of whom will provide depth and experience to this year's squad. Three true freshmen, Shawn Glover, Marshall Henderson and Jeremy Olsen are all expected to challenge for playing time as they work to learn and develop in Boylen's system.
Findlay went a perfect 36-0 last year en route to the Div. II national championship. In their previous exhibition game, the Oilers fell to Duke by a score of 84-48 in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday. Senior guard Marcus Parker led the way for Findlay with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Oilers are the second straight team that Utah has played in a preseason exhibition from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after taking on Grand Valley State last year. This game will mark the first-ever meeting between Findlay and Utah.
The Runnin' Utes' first regular-season contest will be Friday, Nov. 13, as the Idaho Vandals come to the Huntsman Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff.