December 21, 2015

Utah 7-footer Jakob Poeltl has feasted on opposing defenses this season, and he may get his most favorable matchup yet.

Poeltl and the 24th-ranked Runnin' Utes hope to feed off a statement win when they host winless Delaware State on Tuesday night.

Utah (9-2) has jumped in and out of the rankings this season, but re-entered them this week after Saturday's 77-75 overtime win over then-No. 7 Duke at Madison Square Garden.

The victory-was just Utah's second over a top-10 team since 2003, and it helped the Runnin' Utes avenge last season's Sweet 16 loss to the Blue Devils. It was also the latest standout performance for the sophomore Poeltl, who finished with 19 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and three blocks.

Utah's man in the middle made 8 of 11 shots to lift his field goal percentage to a gaudy 70.2 through 11 games, tops in the Pac-12 Conference and fourth in the nation. Poeltl has made 27 of 35 shots in his last four games and has finished under 60 percent shooting just twice this season.

His latest effort helped earn him Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for the second time this season already.

''It's a very emotional win,'' said Poeltl. ''It's just a great feeling.''

Delaware State (0-11) doesn't have a player taller than 6-9 on its roster and has been outrebounded 474-336 this season. The Hornets' starting big men - DeVaughn Mallory and Demola Onifade - average 3.1 and 1.5 points, respectively.

It may not be just one 7-footer the Hornets have to deal with as freshman Jayce Johnson will be available to make his debut.

Johnson was originally a four-star recruit in the 2016 class but reclassified into the 2015 class as a midseason addition. He graduated from high school early and will enroll at Utah for the Spring semester.

He practiced for the first time on Monday and will be available off Utah's bench.

"We are really looking forward to having Jayce begin his college career today," coach Larry Krystkowiak told the team's official website. "He is a terrific player and a high-character young man. I am excited for him and our program."

Delaware State will play the eighth game on an exhausting nine-game road trip. The Hornets have lost by an average of 28.9 points in the first seven games of the trek, allowing opponents to average 79.4 points while shooting 47.6 percent.

While defense has been a problem, offense has been a far bigger issue for Delaware State, which ranks last in the nation with 53.6 points per game and 34.9 percent shooting.

DeAndre Haywood had a season-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting but Mallory and Onifade went scoreless while missing all six field-goal attempts in Saturday's 78-63 loss to Temple.

"I can't complain about our effort against a good Temple team in its building," coach Keith Walker told the team's official website. "It's frustrating for the guys that such an effort didn't result in a win, but we are making progress."

Utah and Delaware State have never faced each other, and the Runnin' Utes are 5-0 all-time against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

The Hornets are 0-20 against ranked opponents since 1996.

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