Memorable matchup: U. stunned Arizona behind Miller on way to 1998 Final 4
To a lot of fans, it is the most memorable game in Utah basketball history.
It happened on March 22, 1998, in the finals of the West Regional at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif.
The Utes had enjoyed a great NCAA tourney run up to that point, defeating San Francisco, Arkansas and West Virginia. But now they were facing defending national champion Arizona with the winner going to the Final Four.
Not many folks were giving the Utes much of a chance against the mighty Wildcats and their three-headed monster of Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Michael Dickerson.
However, thanks to a gimmick defense that worked to perfection and a huge game from Andre Miller, the Utes routed the Wildcats in one of the bigger upsets in NCAA history, 76-51.
Miller was absolutely phenomenal in scoring 18 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out 13 assists in 36 minutes.
"This is the kind of line you hardly ever see out of anybody," marveled Arizona coach Lute Olson. "He gets 13 defensive rebounds and he's a point guard."
One of the reasons Miller was able to get so many rebounds was because of the defense Utah played. Ute coach Rick Majerus had hinted the day before he had something up his sleeve for the Wildcats, and it turned out to be the triangle-and-two or "66" defense.
What the Utes did was form a triangle with Miller at the top and Michael Doleac and Hanno Mottola at the bottom with Drew Hansen and Alex Jensen, Utah's two best defenders, chasing Bibby and Simon.
It totally confused the Wildcats, who continued to fire up long shots that often ended up in Miller's hands. Bibby, Miles and Dickerson combined to shoot just 6 for 36. Only future NBA star Jason Terry played decently, scoring 16 points off the bench.
After the game, Miller credited the defense with his being able to put up the big numbers.
"I got a lot of rest on defense, and that's why I was able to push the ball and make some passes and get rebounds," Miller said. "With the zone I was able to stand around at the top and keep my eye on Dickerson and Terry. I was able to get some rest, and that's why I got all the numbers." Utah and Arizona will meet Friday in an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since the famous 1998 contest.
Current Ute coach Jim Boylen said he didn't watch the '98 game but has memories of it.
"I remember people talking about it. I remember how they played the triangle and two defense."
He also remembers Miller's performance, and he became well-acquainted with Miller and his game when he was an assistant coach in the NBA.
Boylen doesn't have an Andre Miller on his team but hopes the result is the same for Utah in this NCAA Tournament.
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