Smith Leads Men's Basketball Past Utah In NCAA First Round
March 19, 2004
By ARNIE STAPLETON
MILWAUKEE - Too big, too physical. Craig Smith and his Boston College teammates fulfilled Utah's worst fears.
The Eagles took advantage against the poor-shooting Utes, winning 58-51 in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday.
Smith scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the sixth-seeded Eagles (24-9), who advanced to the second round of the St. Louis Regional, where they will play Georgia Tech on Sunday at 1:15 (CST).
Utah (24-9), seeded 11th, got just eight points from sharpshooter Nick Jacobson, who made just 3-of-18 shots and was just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc.
"We felt he was the glue guy to their team," Smith said. "When he starts hitting shots, it makes their team better. I thought we did a real good job of making him take bad shots."
Jacobson insisted he got good looks.
"They were all right on. They felt good every time I shot them," he said. "I thought they'd go in the next time. Otherwise, I wouldn't have shot them."
Boston College, snubbed by the NCAA selection committee last year, won at at-large bid after losing to Pittsburgh in the Big East semifinals. They quickly proved they belonged, outmuscling the Utes inside and closing off all lanes to the basket.
Afterward, they acted like NCAA veterans. No hollering. No smiling.
"We're not going to act like little kids anymore and start jumping around saying, 'Oh, we won the game!"' Eagles center Uka Agbai said. "I tell our guys this is about business."
And what a job they did.
Led by Smith, a wide-bodied forward who packs 255 pounds on his 6-foot-7 frame, the Eagles' swarming man-to-man defense kept the Utes out of any rhythm. And when Utah found its range late in the second half, the Eagles double-teamed Jacobson and kept him from hurting them.
Jacobson, hounded by Sean Marshall early and Jermain Watson late, missed a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left after Smith's putback gave Boston College a 54-51 lead.
"We tried to deny him the ball as much as we could. Every time he did touch the ball, we tried to crowd him," Marshall said.
Watson said he knew Jacobson would eventually find the net, "but if he was going to hit them, they would be tough shots."
The Utes still had a chance when Smith missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But the Eagles' defense befuddled freshman Andrew Bogut, who led the Utes with 16 points but lost track of the shot clock, passing to teammate Richard Chaney as the buzzer sounded with 12 seconds left.
Smith and Watson each sank two free throws and Jacobson missed two more 3-pointers after that, sending the Utes to just their third first-round exit in 24 NCAA appearances.
Jacobson couldn't get away fast enough, quickly shaking hands with the Eagles, then sprinting off the court and into the locker room.
One of only two seniors, Jacobson said he let down his young teammates.
"They're really relying on me to make some of those shots," he said. "I put them in a tough situation."
Jacobson's shooting got the Utes into the NCAA tournament - he hit the winning shot against UNLV to win the Mountain West tournament championship - and on Friday his errant shots took them right out.
His 190 career 3-pointers were second only to Keith Van Horn's 206 in school history, but Jacobson missed all 10 of his first-half attempts, including six from long range, and the Utes fell behind 29-20 at the break.
"We established ourselves defensively," Boston College coach Al Skinner said. "I thought Jacobson had a tough first half. We set the tone, rebounded well and gave ourselves some breathing room."
Utah finished 9-4 under interim coach Kelly Rupp, a 50-year-old rookie head coach who took over in January when Rick Majerus, who has a history of heart problems, decided sudden chest pains and the stress of coaching were a sign that he needed to get his obesity under control.