Andre Miller battles UNC's
Ed Cota for the ball.
March 28, 1998
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Andre Miller promised Utah wouldn't roll over for No. 1 seed North Carolina, and just when it seemed the Utes were about to do exactly that Saturday night, he made sure they didn't.
Utah's 15-point halftime lead had dwindled to just two with 1:57 left in the NCAA semifinal and all the momentum belonged to the Tar Heels. With each North Carolina basket, the Utes seemed to be looking around, franctically searching for somebody to come up with an answer.
Miller turned out to be the guy.
The gritty point guard from the tough side of Los Angeles took an inbounds pass and went from one end of the court to the other for a clutch basket that restored the lead to four points and gave Utah some needed breathing room.
He finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as the Utes charged into Monday night's championship game against Kentucky. It was almost a carbon copy of the triple-double he came up with as the Utes ousted defending national champion Arizona to reach the Final Four.
In that game, Miller had 18 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists for what was believed to be the first triple-double in school history. At 6-foot-2, he is the shortest starter for Utah. What's a little guy like him doing with all those rebounds?
"I just try to go where the ball goes," he said. "I like to go to the boards and help out the other guys."
He does a lot more than that for the Utes.
North Carolina's Vince Carter was impressed by what Miller did to the Tar Heels.
"He plays hard and he refuses to lose," he said. "How many point guards do you know who can get 14 rebounds and still have seven assists?"
Utah appreciates all that Miller does for it.
"We ran on his shoulders," Alex Jensen said. "The last few games, he's been the heart and soul of our team. When he plays well, our chances of winning are greater."
Miller recognized what Carolina was doing to Utah as the Tar Heels mounted their comeback.
"They kind of slowed the game down," he said. "Once they went to the zone, we just worked the ball around and tried to get a good shot and whatever happened happened."
Until he took things in his own hands, not much good was happening for the Utes, who seemed ready to let that big lead get away.
Miller felt like it was his responsibility to stop the bleeding.
"I had to step up my game defensively and offensively to take over the team," he said.
Coach Rick Majerus recruited Miller from the rugged side of LA with a major assist from the young man's mother. "She sent me off and told me not to come back," Miller said.
No problem there. Majerus would never let that happen.