The University of Utah's Runnin' Utes overcame Von McDade's hot hand and a bothersome full-court press to defeat the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 80-78 here Wednesday night, thus preserving their coach's homecoming and a modest winning streak.
It was the Utes' third win of the season in as many games. It also was their first game against a Division I opponent this season and their first road game.McDade rallied the Panthers late in the game, but it wasn't enough. Josh Grant and Tyrone Tate each hit a pair of foul shots in the final seconds to hold the Panthers at bay.
Grant totaled 22 points and 9 rebounds for the Utes, and Randy Doss scored 19 points for the Panthers, but they were both overshadowed by McDade. He scored a career-high 38 points, making 14 of 30 field goal attempts (but only 3 of 11 from three-point range). During one stretch late in the game, he hit five of six shots.
"He's a big-time player," said Utah coach Rick Majerus, who recruited McDade several years ago while coaching at Ball State. "I've never had a guy go for more than 24 (points) against me as a coach. He's a terrific player."
For Majerus, Wednesday's game was a homecoming. He coached at the local high school and at the local university - Marquette - and for the local NBA team. He was greeted at practice Tuesday by several TV cameras and a handful of radio and newspaper reporters. There was much fanfare surrounding his return to Milwaukee. The first 1,000 fans to attend Wednesday's game were given Rick Majerus masks.
"It was a special night - and I'm glad it won't happen again in a while," said Majerus, who was concerned about the distractions.
It didn't show. The Utes shot 54 percent from the field, while the Panthers shot a mere 40 percent. Byron Wilson, who like Tate is from nearby Chicago, produced 16 points, 6 rebounds and 1 turnover while family and friends watched from the stands. Wilson and Grant were Utah's only double-figure scorers.
Majerus made some changes to meet the Panthers and their full-court press. He started 6-foot-3 Craig Rydalch in place of center Walter Watts, and moved 6-5 M'Kay McGrath to center. (Watts played just nine minutes, but tallied 8 points, 3 rebounds and 0 turnovers.) Nevertheless, the press did rattle the Utes, who committed 15 turnovers in the first half (eight in the second half). "The press bothered us in the first half, but we did a lot better in the second half," said Majerus.
The Utes built a 10-point lead in the first half, but by halftime led only 34-33. They took another 10-point lead with 7:50 left in the game, and again the Panthers rallied. The Utes still led by six points with 39 seconds left, but McDade hit a three-point shot to make it 76-73. With 22 seconds left, Grant made a pair of free throws to increase the Ute lead to 78-73, but moments later Wilson fouled McDade as he attempted a trey, resulting in three foul shots. He made all three shots to cut Utah's lead to 78-76 with 13 seconds left. Tate made a pair of foul shots with nine seconds left to put the game out of reach.
"Down the stretch, Josh took over like he needs to," said Majerus. " . . . (UWM) is a nice team. It was a good win for us."
The Utes next play Michigan Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.