TSU men’s team hopes to bounce back against Utah

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2001

Sports Editor

While the current Utah men’s basketball team may not be equal in talent to 1998’s NCAA national title runner-up squad, the Runnin’ Utes are still coached by Rick Majerus.

Majerus, the boisterous, slick-headed, 17-year coaching veteran, has become a staple at Utah, where he’s won six Western Athletic Conference titles and led the Runnin’ Utes to seven NCAA tournaments appearances.

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"He’s (Majerus) had a great career," said Troy State men’s head coach Don Maestri, whose Trojans will play at Utah on Saturday. "He’s truly one of the great stories in college basketball."

Majerus walked on and played for Al McGuire at Marquette University. He stayed with McGuire for 12 seasons as an assistant coach, before taking over the head job himself in 1983. Stints at Ball State and the NBA Milwaukee Bucks’ organization followed before Majerus found a home at Utah in 1989. The 53-year old has compiled a 262-73 record since taking over as the Runnin’ Utes’ head coach.

"He’s one of the better college basketball coaches in the country," adds Maestri.

Utah missed out on the NCAA field-of-64 last year, but did make the National Invitational Tournament. Majerus returns all five starters from last season’s team and have three players who are averaging in double digits this year, including Nick Jacobson (14.3 ppg), Chris Burgess (13.8 ppg), and Britton Johnsen (11.5 ppg). The Runnin Utes’ are currently 3-3 following a 71-62 loss against Arizona State.

Maestri and his squad know about tough losses.

The Trojans (3-2 overall, 1-1 Atlantic Sun) dropped a 68-65 decision to instate and Atlantic Sun opponent Samford last Saturday night in Trojan Arena.

"One thing you really hate to do and that’s lose in front of your home fans," said Maestri. "We weren’t hitting our shots and when you go five or six times down the floor, like we did, without any points, your defensive intensity starts to suffer. It was a tough loss."

But, according to Maestri, TSU can’t dwell on the loss to Samford and hope to have a chance against Utah.

"The thing about basketball, as in life, is that you forget about that last loss as soon as you step on the court for your next game," he said. "I think Utah averages about 12,000 for a home game and once those fans start going, I think our kids will be ready to play. And we’ll have to play really well in order to have a chance."

Tip-off is at 7 p.m.