Miller makes a point against Bibby, Simon Utah guard outshines Arizona's All-Americans

March 22, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Oh, the motivation running through Andre Miller's head yesterday morning.

Miller runs the point for No. 7 Utah and was a first-team selection in the Western Athletic Conference. His coach, Rick Majerus, said, "I wouldn't trade Miller for anyone, but I stand by my statement that Mike Bibby is the best point guard in the nation."

Bibby is one-half of Arizona's All-America backcourt, the other being Miles Simon. Four years ago, Simon was the premier backcourt prospect in Southern California, at a time when the region's guard talent ran deep. The crop included Miller, who was lightly recruited because he didn't project academically.

Miller's talent and patience were validated in Utah's 76-51 romp over defending champion Arizona yesterday. He was named Most Outstanding Player in the West Regional, and it wasn't close, as he sliced through the Wildcats for a triple double of 18 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists.

Miller played 36 minutes, had the ball in his hands for most of the game and committed only three turnovers, which were canceled by a block and two steals. The rebounds and assists were career highs. Miller had 13 rebounds on the defensive end, and it only seemed like every one was followed by an assist.

Was it the best game of his career?

"Yeah, because I got a lot of rest on defense," said Miller, who worked the foul line in Utah's triangle-and-two defense. "When I got the ball, I was able to push it. I did my job defensively, and that's why I got those numbers."

Opponents keep pressing Utah in the NCAA tournament, and Miller keeps making them pay.

"I was aware that he's one of the better players, and today he showed that in all facets of the game," Simon said. "As good a player as he is, you would expect him to step up big. He's broken every press he faced in the tournament."

Miller is 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, but he averages 5.2 rebounds and Arizona coach Lute Olson put his best perimeter defender, 6-5 Michael Dickerson, on him.

"We matched Dickerson against Miller because he has size and strength over Mike Bibby," Olson said.

The game's first shot was telling. Utah won the tap, spread the floor, and Miller broke down Dickerson for a short bank.

Arizona was ahead 8-7, before Miller triggered a 10-0 run from which the Wildcats never recovered.

Forward Hanno Mottola started the spurt with a tough driving basket, but then Miller took over the game. He scored off the dribble, assisted Alex Jensen, drove the lane again and scored, then completed the spurt by coming off of a screen and converting a pass from David Jackson.

Miller wasn't the only perimeter player to excel for Utah. Jackson played 25 minutes off the bench, and made Bibby miserable. Hansen had only one basket, but his defensive work was another key. Jensen's 6-7, 225-pound frame wasn't supposed to move that quickly.

"Everyone was telling us we were the underdog," Miller said, "but knew we were a good team."

Miller didn't gloat, but Hansen did for him.

"I know Coach [Majerus] said Bibby's the best point guard," Hansen said. "Coach said he [Miller] is second best, but I think he's wrong."

Pub Date: 3/22/98

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