Entering the NCAA tournament, the biggest knock on Utah was its experience. No Utes player had been to the Big Dance, so what would happen if they fell behind big early?
Utah answered that question emphatically with a 75-64 win over Georgetown in the South region Round of 32. The Utes are now set for their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005.
Georgetown jumped out to a 21-10 lead, and with 13:26 left in the half, Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak called a timeout. Out of the break, Utah ripped open an 11-2 run to take the lead at 24-23 and force Georgetown coach John Thompson III to call a timeout of his own. The teams were tied at the half, 32-32.
In the second half, the game was even as late as the 7:01 mark, when a pair of Joshua Smith free throws knotted the score at 53. The Utes then reeled off a 7-2 run and kept the Hoyas at arm’s length from there.
Junior guard Brandon Taylor led Utah with 14 points, but it was a balanced offensive effort: four of his teammates scored in double figures as well. Senior star Delon Wright had an off-shooting night, going just 2 of 7 from the floor, but he made up for it at the charity stripe, hitting 8 of 10.
Georgetown, led by forward L.J. Peak’s 18 points, was almost equally balanced, with four players scoring in double figures. The Hoyas struggled to shoot, though, going 24 of 55 (43.6%) from the field and 9 of 25 (36.0%) from beyond the three-point line.
Utah already had much of the classic tournament formula in place, with veteran guards, strong shooters and tough defense. And now the Utes are gaining confidence and experience with every game.