No. 5 seed Utah gets by No. 4 seed Georgetown to return to Sweet 16
Brandon Taylor envisioned Utah finding success in this season’s NCAA tournament. He just didn’t know how good it would feel.
Taylor scored 14 points and Delon Wright added 12 and the fifth-seeded Utes beat No. 4 Georgetown 75-64 on Saturday night to earn the team’s first Sweet 16 berth in a decade.
Utah (26-8) will travel to Houston to play the winner of Sunday’s game in Charlotte, NC, between top-seeded Duke (30-4) and No. 8 San Diego State (27-8).
"I knew we were due at beginning of the season, I just didn’t know how the feeling would be. I saw it: We have the personnel, we put the work in during the summer," Taylor said. "But I just didn’t imagine what the feeling would be like. To experience it now, I’m lost for words."
The Utes haven’t advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2005, when they fell as the No. 6 seed to No. 2 Kentucky. The team is making its first tournament appearance since 2009.
L.J. Peak led Georgetown (22-11) with 18 points.
"I’m disappointed, but I still have my head high," said Georgetown’s Jabril Trawick, who had 10 points. "Surprisingly, I didn’t cry or anything. I had a great time. It’s been a great experience. The group they have coming back is going to be a special team."
Jordan Loveridge’s long jumper gave Utah a 57-53 lead late, but the Utes couldn’t quite pull away from the physical Hoyas. After Peak’s layup brought Georgetown within 61-57 with 3:06 left, Taylor nailed a 3-pointer for Utah.
Dakarai Tucker’s layup stretched Utah’s lead to 66-59 at the 1:40 mark and Georgetown couldn’t catch up.
The Utes opened the tournament on Thursday with a 57-50 victory over No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin, while Georgetown advanced with an 84-74 victory over No. 13 Eastern Washington.
The Hoyas haven’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2007, when they won as the second seed until losing to top-seeded Ohio State in the Final Four.
Georgetown was making its 30th appearance in the tournament, including a national championship in 1984. The Hoyas settled for an NIT invitation last year after getting bounced from the 2013 NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed by No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast.
During the 1990s and into the 2000s, the Utes were a perennial NCAA tournament participant under coach Rick Majerus, advancing in 11 of his 14 seasons at the helm. In 1989, Utah got past defending national champion Arizona and landed in the title game but fell to Kentucky 78-69.
The Utes won a national championship in 1944.
"I never saw this coming," Tucker said about heading to Houston. "This is really a dream come true."
Utah saw the return of 7-foot center Dallin Bachynski, who missed the tournament opener after tweaking his ankle earlier in the week. Utah needed him against the bigger and heavier Hoyas.
The game featured contrasting styles: Georgetown’s Princeton offense against Utah’s motion offense. At first the Utes appeared to have trouble adjusting to the Hoyas, who found early success on the perimeter.
The Hoyas led by as many as 11 in the first half before Utah closed the gap.
"It was just miscues," Loveridge said. "We started off not rebounding. We started running back, thinking about transition too much instead of thinking about boards. That’s pretty much what hurt us in the beginning.
Utah: Wright is the little brother of guard Dorell Wright of the Portland Trail Blazers, whose home court is the Moda Center.
Georgetown: Six-foot-10, 350-pound center Joshua Smith is from Kent, Wash., only a couple of hours by car from Portland. He says he had more than 40 people from Kent making the trip south for the game.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III didn’t bother with any analysis after the game. He just thanked his seniors.
"You know, you lose a game that, you know, I don’t think anyone in there planned on going home for good tomorrow, tonight. And so at this point right now, there’s no need to beat them up or go analyze or critique the game. It’s one of the few last times that that group is going to be together. And so, you know, just have to thank those guys, in particular our seniors. They’ve worked hard. They’ve given of themselves for the program."
Utah advances to face the winner of Sunday’s game between top-seeded Duke (30-4) and No. 8 San Diego State (27-8).
Georgetown’s season is over.