Oh, so Sweet: Utes reach round of 16 with upset of Sooners

first_imgTUCSON, Ariz. — Andrew Bogut had just finished his interview with CBS-TV and came running up the tunnel beneath the McKale Center. As he approached a phalanx of media types camped outside the Ute locker room, the big Aussie exclaimed, “Sweet 16, put that in the paper,” before disappearing to join his teammates in celebration.Don’t worry, Andrew. We will.The Utes are indeed headed to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, thanks to a 67-58 victory over Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon. They’ll face old nemesis Kentucky on Friday in Austin, Texas.Utah accomplished the challenging task in most unlikely fashion.They committed 20 turnovers compared to just seven for the Sooners and only got 10 points, the lowest output total of the season, from Bogut, their all-American center. But thanks to a long list of excellent things the Utes did Saturday, they’ve advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time since 1990 and 17th time in school history. Sophomore forward Justin Hawkins had a career game, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Marc Jackson had another stellar defensive performance as well as a hot shooting night with 4-of-5 3-pointers for 17 points. Bryant Markson scored 16 points, mostly on an array of rousing dunks. Bogut dished out a season-high seven assists as he consistently found teammates open for easy shots. Utah shot 59.5 percent from the field and held Oklahoma to 31.8 percent. “It’s the happiest day I’ve had in coaching,” said Utah first-year coach Ray Giacoletti. “I’m so proud of these guys. Probably only 20 people believed, but it was the right 20.””You can’t really explain the feeling you have,” said Jackson. “It’s one of those things that doesn’t come along very often. I’m excited to be playing for another week.”The Utes came into the game as underdogs — the No. 6 seed in the regional compared to No. 3 for Oklahoma. The day before, Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson had said seedings didn’t matter at this point of the tournament. He also said whichever team shot best would win.Sampson proved to be a prophet.Right from the start, the Utes were hitting their shots and the Sooners were clanking theirs.Utah hit its first five shots, while Oklahoma missed seven straight after making its first shot. Before the crowd even settled into their seats, it was 13-2 Utah, reminiscent of the Utah-North Carolina semifinal game in 1998 when the Utes jumped out to a 15-2 lead en route to a 65-59 victory.”I think how you start is what kind of day you’re going to have,” said Giacoletti. “A poor start would not have shown well for us tonight.”The Utes came out of the chute as fast as they have all season. They had jumped ahead of Wyoming 16-0, but that took nearly 10 minutes of the game.On the first possession of the game, Tim Drisdom hit Markson on a backdoor play that had been drawn up in the locker room. Then Jackson sank 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, as many 3s in a minute as he’d hit in the previous three games combined.Jackson’s first 3 came under pressure with the shot clock running down, and it actually banked in.”I gave them a shot fake and got it off,” Jackson said. “The bank was open, I guess.”Hawkins then scored off a pass from Jackson, and Markson sank a 3-pointer from the right corner. Just like that it was 13-2.At that point, you’d think the Utes might try to bury the opponent with the loose play they exhibited, but they got into their careful mode and turned the ball over on six of eight possessions, allowing the Sooners back in the game.It was still 20-12 when the slippery-fingered Utes made four more turnovers to let Oklahoma pull within four at 20-16.But Hawkins scored six points, Markson tipped in a miss and Jackson sank a pair of free throws and the Utes took a 30-21 lead into halftime.Amazingly, Bogut scored only two first-half points — in fact, he only took three shots, including a 3-pointer in the final seconds. On the way to the locker room, Giacoletti promised his center more touches in the second half, to which Bogut replied, “I don’t care, we’re up by nine.”The Utes failed on their first three possessions of the second half, but Jackson scored eight quick points, a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of free throws to stake the Utes to a 40-27 lead.”All week long my shot has been feeling pretty good, even when they weren’t dropping,” Jackson said. “But today it started going in.”The Ute lead got as high as 15 at 44-29, but after a five-minute delay for the false fire alarm, the Utes fell back in their turnover mode with four straight without a shot, while the Sooners scored eight straight points.Then Mr. Bogut went to work.He hit a pair of free throws to put the Utes back up by nine, then fed Hawkins for a dunk. Then he hit Markson for back-to-back dunks and followed with a left-handed hook of his own to push the lead to 55-42 with 5:12 left.After an Oklahoma timeout, Bogut hit Richard Chaney for still another dunk, giving Bogut four points and four assists on six straight Utah baskets.The Utes missed four free throws (they were only 18 of 28 on the day) in the final two minutes to allow the Sooners to cut the final margin to nine.As Drisdom held the ball near midcourt, the Ute coaches did a group hug and the celebration started.Oklahoma was led by Taj Gray, who scored 19 points, and Terrell Everett with 16. Drew Lavender, who had led the team in its first-round win over Niagara with 17 points, was held to three points by Jackson, who covered him most of the game. “It was one of those days,” Sampson said. “I thought we were good enough to win this game, but Utah played better. The problem is that in the NCAA tournament you don’t get any do-overs.” Game at a glance: Utah 67, Oklahoma 5 E-mail: sor@desnews.com Related Bogut shows value without scoringlast_img

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