Call this one a road win for Utah. Neutral court? No way. UTEP might as well have been playing at home with the raucous following from El Paso that packed McKale Center in Tucson yesterday.
With the deafening crowd against them, the Utes escaped with a 60-54 first-round NCAA Tournament victory thanks to a brilliant bit of defense by Tim Drisdom and a critical rebound from an exhausted Andrew Bogut.
Utah led, 56-54, when UTEP's lightning-fast point guard Filiberto Rivera drove the lane. Drisdom stripped the ball, then was fouled by Rivera. The Utah junior's two free throws made it 58-54 with 15.4 seconds to play.
"I kind of took a gamble and came up with the steal," Drisdom said. "It was a little luck, a little defense."
Jason Williams tried to score inside, but Bogut got a piece of the ball, then saved the rebound as he crashed to the floor. Marc Jackson's two free throws with 5.6 seconds to go sealed a victory that left the Utes 6-0 in NCAA Tournament games at McKale Center. Utah (28-5) has won 23 of its last 25.
Bogut, who played all 40 minutes, had 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots, but the Australian 7-footer was just 2 for 4 in the second half and made only 4 of 10 free throws.
Omar Thomas scored 24 in his final collegiate game for the Miners (27-8). The sixth-seeded Utes play Oklahoma tomorrow in the second round of the Austin Regional.
Texas Tech 78, UCLA 66 -- Ronald Ross, who scored 28 and 22 points in the semifinals and finals of the Big 12 tournament, went for 28 and the Red Raiders shot a season-high 62 percent in a victory over the 11th-seeded Bruins. Texas Tech (21-10) improved to 2-2 in NCAA Tournament games since coach Bob Knight came to Lubbock four seasons ago.
The sixth-seeded Red Raiders play No. 3 seed Gonzaga, a winner over Winthrop, in the second round of the Albuquerque Regional tomorrow.
UCLA (17-12), with its lowest seed ever on the 10th anniversary of its last national championship, never led but stayed close until a 12-2 run put Texas Tech up, 76-61.
Gonzaga 74, Winthrop 64 -- The 14th-seeded Eagles almost did to the Bulldogs what third-seeded Gonzaga has done to several top teams over the years before the 'Zags grabbed control late. The loss snapped Winthrop's 18-game winning streak. Gonzaga (26-4) won its 13th in a row. Neither team led by more than 8 points until the very end of the game, and it was tied four times in the final 20 minutes.
Adam Morrison led Gonzaga with 27 points. J.P. Batista added 14 points, and Ronny Turiaf had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Oklahoma 84, Niagara 67 -- Drew Lavender led six Sooners in double figures with 17 points in third-seeded Oklahoma's victory in an Austin Regional. The Sooners (25-7), who didn't make the tourney last year, struggled with 46 percent shooting, but were helped out by solid defense that harassed the Eagles into 16 turnovers.
Juan Mendez led 14th-seeded Niagara (20-10) with 22 points and 15 rebounds. But he missed his first 11 shots in the second half.