SALT LAKE CITY — On paper, tonight's game between 10th-ranked BYU and Utah in the Huntsman Center is "six of one, half a dozen of the other."
Both teams come into the Mountain West Conference contest with six-game streaks — the Cougars (16-1) on the positive side and the Utes (7-9) on the negative.
Question is, does it matter when rivals collide? Especially in a series that is knotted at 125-125?
"When you throw the ball up and the two teams get going, I don't think it'll be relevant at all," said BYU coach Dave Rose, who is hopeful the team on the winning streak has the same focus. "Because this is going to be a very, very competitive game. I think the challenge for us is we're going to Utah to play a Utah team that is 6-2 at home that's been very successful there. They're used to winning games there."
The Utes' current losing skid includes three losses at a tournament in Hawaii, as well as road games at Portland and Air Force. Wednesday's 71-62 loss to San Diego State was the lone setback in the Huntsman Center.
"So we're looking for a real competitive game," Rose said. "... They've got really talented players at every position that are capable of having big games,"
The Cougars, though, have dominated the rivalry as of late. They've won the last three meetings and seven of the past eight contests.
BYU, however, isn't first and foremost on the mind of Utah coach Jim Boylen. He's taking more of an internal approach into this game.
"What they've done to this point, I don't know if it matters to us. We know they're a good basketball team. We know they have a lot of weapons," Boylen said. "I've been focused on how do we improve. How do we get better? How do we try to combat the things that they do and how do we continue to improve this new, kind of young, developing team. That's what my focus is."
The Utes, he explained, are looking to put 40 minutes of good basketball together. One of their biggest problems is responding to runs, something they'll likely face against BYU's explosive scorer Jimmer Fredette.
"Our biggest thing is just to make him work," Boylen said. "He's going to make plays and make shots that at times can humble you and they can stun you."
Boylen thought his team defended Fredette well last year, but he made shots over them.
The key this time around, he noted, is how they recover from such situations.
"We are real close, we just have to make sure we trust each other for a full 40 minutes," said Utah center David Foster. "At times we tend not to trust each other and we need to make sure we get the crucial balls on the defensive end."
GAME NOTES: The Utes will be wearing their away uniforms as part of a "Red Out" ... The first 1,000 fans through the turnstiles will receive free "Red Out Crazy Hair" ... Utah hasn't won a game since defeating Boise State on Dec. 17 ... With the rivals heading to the Pac-12 and West Coast Conference next season, respectively, this will be their final conference clash in the Huntsman Center. BYU and Utah will square off in the Marriott Center on Feb. 12.
BYU at Utah
Tonight: 6:30 p.m.
Jon M. Huntsman Center
TV: The mtn.
Radio: 102.7 FM, 1160 AM, 700 AM