Unranked Utah’s largest victory of the 12 months, a Pac-12 opening 81-66 upset of No. 4 Arizona on Thursday night time, got here precisely 10 years after the loss of life of Rick Majerus, the legendary coach who led the Utes to the 1998 nationwide title sport.
Majerus, who died of coronary heart failure on Dec. 1, 2012, at 64 years previous, led Utah to a 76-51 victory over top-seed Arizona within the Elite Eight in 1998 to advance to the Ultimate 4 that 12 months.
When requested by a reporter concerning the anniversary, Utah head coach Craig Smith mentioned his staff did not find out about it getting into the sport, however he mentioned he is at all times admired Majerus, the one head coach to guide Utah to the nationwide title sport.
“I bear in mind as a younger coach, when he was doing TV for some time, I’d simply like to take heed to him due to his element and skill to speak,” Smith mentioned after his staff’s dwelling win over the Wildcats on Thursday, two weeks after it had suffered a loss to Sam Houston State. “What a legendary determine. It is fairly cool. However we didn’t share that with our guys, however I’m going to share that tomorrow.”
Majerus, an assistant with Al McGuire’s 1977 Marquette staff that received a nationwide championship, coached Utah from 1989 to 2004. Throughout that stretch, Utah reached the NCAA match 10 instances.
Thursday’s sport was this system’s first win over an Related Press top-five staff since Dec. 30, 2000, when it defeated then-No. 1 Alabama, in keeping with ESPN Stats & Data. This system had misplaced 12 video games in a row in opposition to top-five groups previous to Thursday’s win.
The Wildcats, ranked first within the nation with a 64.5 p.c clip contained in the arc, struggled all through their convention opener. After ending 9-for-33 within the first half and getting into the break with a 42-25 deficit, Arizona could not shut the hole within the second half. Though the Wildcats pulled inside six factors with 14:06 to play within the sport, a Utah squad that was extra relentless than it was environment friendly (the staff shot 44 p.c from the sphere) prolonged its lead down the stretch.
Senior Branden Carlson was one in every of 4 Utes who completed with double figures.
Arizona has been extensively considered as one in every of America’s most proficient groups, regardless of dropping three gamers who had been chosen throughout the top-33 picks of final summer time’s NBA draft. The Wildcats play the quickest tempo within the nation however have one way or the other managed to additionally play a number of the best basketball within the nation, too.
That was till Thursday, when a Wildcats squad that had defeated No. 24 San Diego State and No. 7 Creighton in back-to-back video games previous to dealing with Utah on Thursday could not discover any solutions.
Tommy Lloyd mentioned his staff may need been affected by overconfidence.
“At the moment, we did not have an incredible strategy, whether or not it is the blokes being slightly bit intoxicated off their success or the issues individuals are saying to them, I do not know,” he advised reporters after the sport. “However we’re undoubtedly going to have to deal with it and we’re undoubtedly going to should play higher than we did tonight.”