Alex Jensen reaches for
a loose ball vs. USF.
March 12, 1998
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - San Francisco's return to the NCAA tournament 16 years after its basketball program was dropped in disgrace didn't last long.
Utah's towering front line, with an average height of 6-foot-7 3/4, overpowered the Dons 85-68 Thursday night in the first round.
The third-seeded Utes (26-3), who reached the final eight last year, will play either Arkansas or Nebraska on Saturday.
Michael Doleac scored 27 points - making 15 of 17 free throws - for the Utes. He and fellow senior Drew Hansen, who had 13 points, played their 10th NCAA tournament game, a Utah record.
No team has shot 50 percent against the Utes this season, and the Dons (19-11) wound up at 42 percent. They simply couldn't counter Utah's tremendous height advantage, while the Utes breezed through San Francisco's full-court press.
Hakeem Ward had 17 points for 14th-seeded San Francisco, decades removed from its NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956 when future Hall of Famer Bill Russell starred for the Jesuit school. The program got dropped for three years after the 1982 NCAA tournament because of recruiting violations.
Down 23 points three times in the second half, the Dons rallied with a 17-2 run, including three straight 3-pointers by freshman Ali Thomas, to close to 62-54 with 9:10 remaining. Thomas finished with 15 points.
Doleac, out briefly with three fouls, returned and immediately steadied the Utes with 5 of 6 free throws on three consecutive trips to the line. Hansen added a 3-pointer that restored Utah's lead to 16 points.