|Keith Van Horn and Rick Majerus display his retired jersey. (Click on image for larger version)|
Jan. 29, 1998
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The No. 3 Runnin' Utes' undefeated season almost went into the history books on a night rich in Utah basketball tradition.
Andre Miller scored 14 points, all in the second half, and led Utah to a 62-56 win over Texas-El Paso on Thursday night.
Miller's clutch second-half performance came on the night Utah retired Keith Van Horn's No. 44 jersey in an emotional ceremony.
"I wanted to prove something to Keith," Miller said. "Personally, it meant a great deal to me that he was here. I wanted to show that I've got better and that we're OK as a team. I had extra reason to play my best."
Utah (18-0, 6-0 Western Athletic Conference) set a school record for consecutive wins and remained in first place in the WAC's Mountain Division. UTEP (11-7, 2-4 WAC) lost its third straight game.
"If the Van Horn hoopla took something away from the team and even if we lost, he deserved it," Utah coach Rick Majerus said. "I wouldn't care if it cost us the game."
Utah shot just 42 percent in the first half and could not shake the Miners, who made a 9-4 run and tied the score at 44 on B.J. Wade's 3-pointer with 9:18 to play.
|UTEP's Louis Radford is trapped by Michael Doleac, left, and Hanno Mottola.|
But Michael Doleac scored on passes from Miller on consecutive possessions, and Miller's layup with 4:28 left gave Utah a 55-48 lead.
"Miller is great at taking the ball right through the gut," said UTEP's Sharif Fajardo, who led the Miners with 18 points. "He did that to us tonight, and it killed us."
"Andre is good when he pushes the ball," Majerus said. "He made some big plays."
Doleac finished with 20 points, and Hanno Mottola added 12. Wade had 15 points for the Miners, 12 in the second half, and hit three 3-pointers.
Utah beat UTEP for the fifth straight time. The Utes are ranked first in the country in scoring defense, and they held the Miners to their average of 56 points.
Although Utah's defense was its usual solid self, the Utes' offense struggled all night. The Miners packed the key to negate Utah's decided size advantage.
"We had them down until Andre Miller decided to take it to the basket on us," UTEP coach Don Haskins said. "He was the difference."
"The team was flat in the first half, (and) I have to get us going in those situations," Miller said. "
Van Horn, now with the New Jersey Nets, is the career scoring leader for Utah and the WAC.
"You people here will never know how much you meant to me," Van Horn said. "I've never said that publicly before, but the support I got from the fans after my father died (in 1994) is the most important thing I've ever been given."
Van Horn is just the fifth Ute to have his number retired after eight decades of Utah basketball.