Andre Miller isn't one to question his coach, especially not in public.
But Utah's point guard admitted that even he was boggled by Utah coach Rick Majerus' decision to use Defense No. 66 against defending national champion Arizona in Utah's Elite Eight game Saturday.Miller was more than a bit worried, seeing as the Utes' walk-on players scored almost at will against Utah's starting squad when they tried this complex triangle-and-two matchup defense in practice Friday. Miller also nervously remembered that it was this same defense, in part, that caused the Utes to crumble against UNLV in the WAC Tournament.
Nonetheless, Majerus decided to throw the same look at the defending-champion and top-seeded Wildcats in the NCAA West Regional Championship. To which Miller responded, "66, coach? Are you serious?"
Good thing for the Utes, Majerus was. Of course, they were also fortunate that somebody put Plexiglas lids on the Arizona baskets.
Following Majerus' plan to perfection, the Utes forced the Wildcats to shoot a miserable 28 percent from the field while holding them to 40 points below their average.
When the huge upset finally came to a merciful ending, Utah emerged with a shocking 76-51 victory in its Elite Eight game Saturday at the Arrowhead Pond.
The defeat was Arizona's worst loss since a 111-58 shellacking from USC in 1983. It was also the biggest margin of loss ever in the NCAA Tournament for the Wildcats, who had won nine tourney games in a row going into Saturday.
The reasons for the thumping were simple. Arizona was confused by Utah's defense, and the Wildcats' stars played like they had wasted all their energy using Disneyland flex passes for a week.
The Wildcats' vaunted backcourt was conspicuously frigid from the field.
Arizona point guard Mike Bibby, considered by many to be a certain NBA lottery pick, had a horrible offensive game as he tried to force many of his shots. The first team All-American sophomore finished connecting on only three of 15 attempts for seven points with one assist.
Senior guard Miles Simon, the Wildcats' other first-team All-American, was even colder. He went 1-for-9 from the field for just six points. And, to make matters worse, Arizona forward Michael Dickerson also scored just six points on 2-of-12 shooting. He airballed three of his first shots.
Coming into Saturday's game, Bibby, Simon and Dickerson accounted for 53.4 of Arizona's 91.9 points per game. For those who weren't doing the math, they only combined for 19 against Utah.
"They played great defense on me," said Bibby. "My shots weren't falling. It was a little frustrating. I have no idea what happened."
"We have had nights where maybe one of our players were off, or even two," said Arizona coach Lute Olsen. "But it is our nightmare when all three of our perimeter players have off-nights."
Arizona's cold shooting allowed Utah to run off to a 17-8 lead midway through the first half. The Wildcats had hit three of 16 shots at that point, and they finished with only 20 points in the half. That was the worst scoring half for Arizona this year.
The irony of the outcome was that Utah's backcourt was supposed to struggle against the quicker and more athletic Wildcats.
"I thought they were going to kill us," Miller said.
Instead, it was Miller and the Utes who did the killing. He registered his first triple-double - 18 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists - to help put Utah in the Final Four for the first time in 32 years.
Arizona, which is notorious for making big spurts, scored back-to-back baskets only three times in the game. And didn't do that at all in the final 17:33.
"They did what they wanted out there," said Bibby, declining to reveal whether he would leave Arizona for the NBA next year. "They played their hearts out. They deserved to win."
... Andre Miller Mike Bibby Miles Simon
Min 36 35 33
FGM 7 3 1
FGA 15 15 9
3M 0 0 0
3A 1 7 3
FTM 4 1 4
FTA 8 2 8
REB 14 3 4
A 13 1 4
ST 2 1 0
BK 1 0 0
PTS 18 7 6