Runnin’ Utes Have Had Some Terrific Upsets Against Top Opponents

Dec 28, 2018, 7:06 PM | Updated: 7:12 pm
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Utes will host one of the nation’s elite teams when the No. 6-ranked Nevada Wolf Pack visit the Huntsman Center.

It’s an exciting opportunity for a potential upset bid, but meeting top 10 opponents isn’t that uncommon for the Utes.

In the program’s history, the Utes have faced a top 10 opponent 85 times. They hold a 20-65 record in such games.

While the record may not be stellar, the Utes have shined at times against some of the country’s best.

1954, Utah Knocks Off Top-Ranked La Salle

In the 1954-55 season, the Utes faced a top ranked team three times, going 1-2 in games against La Salle, Kentucky and San Francisco.

In the program’s first ever contest against a No. 1 ranked squad, the Utes knocked off La Salle, 79-69, at DeGray Gymnasium in Brooklyn.

The win bumped Utah up from being ranked 15th to 2nd.

The Utes next game pitted No. 2 Utah against No. 1 Kentucky. The Utes didn’t experience the same success that they had days before and lost 70-65.

It was still a good season for Utah, who made the NCAA Tournament and lost to the eventual national champion, San Francisco, who was led by future NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell.

1998, Utes Defeat North Carolina To Advance To NCAA Finals

Many years later, the Utes would defeat San Francisco, in the first round of a magical NCAA Tournment run in 1998.

After wins over San Francisco, Arkansas, West Virginia and Arizona, the Utes met North Carolina in the Final Four in San Antonio. The Tar Heels had finished their pre-tournament schedule with ranked No. 1 and with the tournament’s top overall seed, were a heavy favorite to beat the Utes of the WAC and advance to the championship game.

The Utes had other plans.

Utah jumped out to a 35-22 halftime lead and led off a late surge by the Tar Heels to shock the college basketball world and make it to the title game.

Future NBA stars Andre Miller and Michael Doleac had 16 points each to overcome 21 points by UNC’s Vince Carter.

The Utes would go to lose to Kentucky 78-69 in the championship game.

Utah Beats No. 1 Alabama At Home

It’s not likely that many saw Utah’s home upset of No. 1 Alabama on December 30, 2002 coming.

The Utes had faced another Top 25 team, Gonzaga, earlier in the year and lost handily, 71-52.

They also had had lost two weeks prior to the Alabama to in-state rival Utah State.

Still, the Utes made the improbable happen with a thrilling 51-49 win over the Crimson Tide in front of a packed house at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes were led by Nick Jacobson, who scored 13 points and knocked down the go-ahead free throws with 24 seconds remaining to down top ranked Alabama.

It was the 1,500th win in program history for the Utes and it was arguably one of their biggest.

The Utes would go to the NCAA Tournament where they lost in the second round to Kentucky.



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Runnin’ Utes Have Had Some Terrific Upsets Against Top Opponents