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1,500 to 1

Utah reaches milestone by downing top-ranked Alabama

Posted: Monday December 30, 2002 11:46 PM
Updated: Tuesday December 31, 2002 12:45 AM
  Britton Johnsen Britton Johnsen celebrates Utah's first victory over a top-ranked team at the Huntsman Center. AP

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Alabama's first trip to the top of The Associated Press rankings will most likely end when the next poll comes out.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide missed nine of its first 10 from the field, shot 41 percent for the game and scored a season-low points in Monday night's 51-49 loss to Utah.

"I never get into that No. 1 stuff. I'm happy the team showed heart," Utah coach Rick Majerus said. "The wins count all the same. Until they count one win for two wins, I won't give it any more attention."

Nick Jacobson led Utah with only 13 points, and he sealed the 1,500th win in school history by making two free throws with 24.2 seconds left. Tim Frost added nine points for the Utes (8-3).

Alabama (9-1) had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but Erwin Dudley missed a putback in the lane. Utah's Richard Chaney grabbed the rebound as time expired. Chaney hugged the ball and sprinted to midcourt as the Utes celebrated the upset.

"This won't break us. You walk into an environment like this, and it's tough," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "The place is sold out. There's no one for us except the guys on our bench."

The top-ranked Tide drew a crowd of 14,665, the largest this season at the Huntsman Center, and the Utes' fans were constantly roaring as Utah got closer to the victory.

"The whole team needed a big win like this. I think guys doubted us because we were young," said Britton Johnsen, who scored eight points. He had surgery Dec. 18 to repair a torn ligament in his right hand. He played with a padded splint and was 4-for-9 from the field with four rebounds.

Maurice Williams led the Tide with 15 points, and Earnest Shelton added 14.

Alabama became No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time in its history two weeks ago when Arizona lost to LSU. The Crimson Tide was No. 1 for a second straight week in Monday's new poll.

The Tide's previous low point total this season came in a 54-48 win over Ohio State on Nov. 29.

"We just didn't overcome all the mistakes we made," Shelton said. "I know we can't survive if we just take outside shots. We need to get the ball inside."

Alabama had the lead only once, and it didn't last long.

After Emmett Thomas put the Tide up 22-21 with a 3-pointer in the first minute of the second half, Jacobson gave the Utes the lead again with a 3-pointer. It ended up being the final lead change.

Alabama stayed within eight points and had several chances to tie it at the end. Shelton was fouled with the Tide down 48-46 and 33.7 seconds to go. He made one of two from the line, then Alabama, which didn't commit a foul in the first 15 minutes of the second half, fouled five straight times to send the Utes to the line.

"I know I'm a good free throw shooter," Jacobson said. "I've shot thousands of those. I just try to put myself in the same place as when I normally shoot."

Jacobson went 2-for-2, then Dudley cut the lead back to a point on a layup with about 12 seconds to go. The Tide sent Tim Drisdom to the line next, and he made just one of two to give Alabama one more chance.

But Williams missed a jumper that would have tied it. The rebound went to Dudley, who also missed. Chaney got the final rebound.

Williams thought he was fouled on his final shot.

"But that's what happens sometimes," he said. "It was a packed house. Three or four years ago, Alabama coming to town, there might not be anybody here."

Both teams had been off for a week, and neither played well in the first half as the score was tied 19-19 at halftime. Alabama had just one field goal in the first 11:46, but the Utes were shooting just about as poorly and couldn't pull away.

Utah was just 8-for-26 in the first half, missing all 11 shots from 3-point range, while Alabama was 7-for-15. Both teams had eight turnovers in the half.

 
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