Utes Use What They Have to Win

From Associated Press

Utah Coach Rick Majerus was making up new plays on the fly.

With three players fouled out and Britton Johnsen available only for cheerleading, it was time to improvise.

"We were playing with every possible combination," Majerus said. "We were drawing things up. We didn't have plays. We don't have plays when you have two point guards, two [shooting guards] and a [small forward] out there. But we did a great job playing through adversity."

Nick Jacobson scored 23 points and made two of three free throws with 14.4 seconds left as the ninth-seeded Utes overcame their worst shooting performance of the season to defeat Oregon, 60-58, Friday in the Midwest Regional.

The eighth-seeded Ducks had a chance to win, but James Davis missed two three-point shots in the final seconds.

Johnsen is sidelined by an enlarged spleen from mononucleosis. Playing without its second-leading scorer, Utah (25-7) won for the ninth time in 10 first-round games under Majerus.

But this one wasn't pretty.

"I like the tag of winning," Jacobson said. "I don't care how it goes."

It was a disappointing loss for Pacific 10 tournament champion Oregon (23-10), a team ranked as high as fifth in the nation in December. Luke Ridnour, the Pac-10 player of the year, had one of his worst games of the season -- fouling Jacobson on a three-pointer as the clock ticked down.

The Utes won despite missing their first nine shots and shooting only 29.5% (18 of 61) from the floor. Utah's only first-round loss under Majerus came last year to eventual runner-up Indiana.

The Utes will play top-seeded Kentucky in the second round Sunday. Utah has played Kentucky four times in the tournament the last 11 years and lost all four times, the last time in the 1998 title game.

"I'd prefer not to play Kentucky, but you have to play someone," Majerus said. "That's just the draw. They're very unselfish, athletic and well-coached. They're everything you want in a team."

Utah slowed the Ducks down with defensive pressure.

"We did a great job defensively," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent said. "But if you look at the first half, we had seven or eight stops on defense, then turned the ball over. We missed our chance to put the game in our favor."

The Ducks, who came in averaging 82 points a game, shot only 34.5% (19 of 55).

Ridnour missed eight of his first nine shots and finished only three of 13 for 13 points. He had only four points at halftime.

But he tried to rally the Ducks, coming alive in the final 13:10. He put Oregon ahead, 54-53, with a pair of free throws with 5:41 left, the Ducks' first lead since 16-15 midway through the first half.

Jacobson made a three-pointer, but Oregon tied the score at 58 on a free throw by Ian Crosswhite with 46.4 seconds to go. Then Jacobson gave the Utes the lead.

The final shot was to go to Ridnour, but the Utes collapsed on him, forcing him to pass to Davis.

"We got a good look," Ridnour said. "It just didn't fall. The game wasn't won on that last possession."

Davis said he had good looks at the basket on both shots. He said his teammates rallied around him, telling him to keep his head up.

"It's always devastating to lose a close game like that. It's not one person's fault. But there wasn't a doubt in my mind they were going to fall. That is how the game is," Davis said.

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