washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > College Basketball - Men > NCAA Men's Tournament

Utes Whiz by Sooners In the Passing Lane

Utah Into Round of 16, With an Assist From Bogut: Utah 67, Oklahoma 58

By Steve Argeris
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page E05

TUCSON, March 19 -- Oklahoma's Drew Lavender was still pressuring on defense as the final seconds ticked away before his teammate, Terrell Everett, pulled him away with a sigh and a shake of his head. For the third-seeded Sooners, it was far too late.

Sixth-seeded Utah rolled, 67-58, in the second round of the Austin Region at McKale Center. The Utes (29-5) advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since their 1997-98 team lost to Kentucky in the national championship game.

Utah's Justin Hawkins drives on Oklahoma's Longar Longar. Utes' Andrew Bogut had 10 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists. (Matt York -- AP)

"It's not about me; it's about those guys," said the Utes' first-year coach, Ray Giacoletti, pointing to the locker room. "How many people thought Bucknell would win? How many people thought Vermont would win? The people in their locker rooms, that's who. That's what we had."

Utah sophomore center Andrew Bogut, considered a potential top pick in June's NBA draft, dominated by leaving the paint. He contributed seven assists to go along with his 10 points and 11 rebounds.

"He made some great plays," Oklahoma guard Jaison Williams said. "Sometimes we tried to double him and were late on our rotations. He made the plays. He has guys around him that make the plays, too. He played well. He makes his teammates better. That's what makes him a good leader."

Bogut initially found it rough going down low against Oklahoma's powerful duo of Taj Gray and burly Kevin Bookout, so the Utes began running a high post set featuring Bogut at the top of the key. It dragged at least one member of the Oklahoma double-team toward the foul line and allowed Bogut to exhibit his passing skills.

"Actually, after the first time we ran it, we never really ran it fully because Andrew kept finding cutters so quickly," Giacoletti said.

Those cutters were primarily Justin Hawkins, who scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Bryant Markson, who had 16 points.

Oklahoma (25-8), the Big 12 co-champion, shot 31 percent. Just three of its 21 baskets came off assists -- compared to 15 of Utah's 22 -- and nearly two-thirds of Oklahoma's 58 points came from free throws (14 points) and second-chance baskets (24).

Gray led Oklahoma with 19 points and 15 rebounds, but only one other player scored in double figures. Everett managed 16 points but made just 6 of 17 shots, and the Sooners made just 2 of 19 three-point attempts.

"They played great defense," Oklahoma guard Lawrence McKenzie said. "They gave 100 percent. I don't remember ever having a game like this."

Utah countered Oklahoma's advantage in the low post by rotating defenses. It succeeded in containing Gray (who shot 8 for 18) and Bookout (who scored four points) by double-teaming frequently but not consecutively.

"That way they wouldn't get in a rhythm and know which way the double-team was coming from," Giacoletti said.

Giacoletti urged his team before the game to match Oklahoma's intensity, and Utah started fast, leading 16-4 just 5 minutes 39 seconds into the game. Oklahoma came back, pulling within 20-16.

"They started off so well," Markson said. "We had to play catch-up the whole way."

After taking a 30-21 lead into halftime, the Utes never allowed Oklahoma closer than seven points the entire second half. Utah made 13 of 17 shots (76 percent) in the second half, including a half-dozen dunks and several more layups as the Utes broke Oklahoma's pressure with relative ease.

"We were finding good shots, and we got a lot of dunks," said Utah guard Marc Jackson, who scored 17 points. "We took pretty good care of the ball."

The Utes turned over the ball 20 times, "but that was an awful lot of pressure," Giacoletti said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company