LAS VEGAS — It's a shot at redemption for the Utah Utes.

Just over a month after an 85-53 loss at San Diego State, they'll get another shot at the Aztecs in the Mountain West Conference Tournament quarterfinals Thursday (7 p.m., The mtn.).

"I think everybody's hungry," said Utah forward Will Clyburn. "Everybody knows what they did to us and everybody's going to come out strong and hard and have the toughness we need to win."

Redemption, noted center David Foster, is a motivating factor this time around.

"We struggled down there," he said. "We didn't play our best basketball in San Diego, and we've just got to learn from that and move on."

The key, he added, is playing the full 40 minutes this time around. Rebounding and running the floor are other variables.

"They're very athletic and sometimes a little unorthodox on the defensive end," Foster said. "They're scrappy but they turn their back a lot. So we have an opportunity to sting them with that."

The Aztecs, though, didn't have much trouble with the Utes the last time around. They led 48-21 at halftime.

Things were a lot closer when the teams met in Salt Lake City in January. San Diego State prevailed 71-62 in that one.

Utah coach Jim Boylen noted that SDSU used a late spurt to pull away the first time and an early run to take control of the second meeting.

"They are a very good team. We have a lot of respect for them," he said. "But we've got to do the hitting instead of being the hitt-ed."

Boylen said the Utes had a good practice Wednesday at the adjacent Cox Pavilion. They were locked in, he explained, but need to carry that over into the game.

And it won't be easy facing an SDSU team that has only lost twice (both to BYU) this season.

It's a tall order for any team.

"It's a chance to establish ourselves in this tournament. It's a chance — I don't know if redemption is the right word — to play better basketball than we did the last time against them," Boylen said. "(We need to) take the challenge, compete as a team, compete as individuals and get better. We are looking forward to the challenge."

Foster considers it a new beginning, if sorts.

"It's just a renewal of our season," he said. "It's an opportunity for us to learn from the past — the things we did well, the things we didn't do well — and that's how you get into this week."

Everyone, he continued, is 0-0.

MWC Tournament

Utah (13-17) vs. San Diego State (29-2)

Today, 7 p.m.

TV: The mtn.

Radio: 700 AM

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com