A poor defensive second half helps Utah drop Ducks in Pac-12 opener
Oregon’s Elijah Brown lugged the ball across the court just before the game-ending buzzer went off.
Meanwhile, at center court, Utah forward David Collette screamed as he clenched both fists. Utah had broken Oregon’s nine-game winning streak over the Utes. It was Utah’s first win in Eugene since 1951 and first since joining the Pac-12.
It was the Pac-12 conference opener, and the Utes (9-3, Pac-12 1-0) came back from an eight-point deficit at the half to secure the 66-56 win over the Ducks (10-4, 0-1) Friday night in Eugene.
To say Utah had a burst of energy would be an understatement. Taking advantage of Oregon’s poor defense, the Utes walked away with their first victory over the Ducks since 2013.
After starting the second half on an 8-0 run, Utah tied the game twice within the first four minutes of the half. Claiming their lead at the 10 minute, 30 second mark, Utah took the ball and ran with it through a 15-4 run.
“It’s obviously disappointing when you lose a game like that,” MiKyle McIntosh said. “You just got to learn from it and realize that any team could come back. It’s a game of basketball; it’s a game of runs.”
The Ducks got as close as two behind the Utes. But multiple droughts prevented them from catching up. Oregon’s offense went down with its already fading defense, going scoreless in the final three minutes of the game.
“Offensively, I’m not sure what we were trying to run,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “I was really surprised we didn’t do a great job. We got outworked.”
“Surprised” was a fitting word, for as the second half’s court action had completely flipped from that of the first.
Oregon shot 44% in the first half, they were the ones with the dominant offense as they held Utah down to a 29-field goal percentage. At halftime, McIntosh was perfect from the floor with 11 points. Both him and Troy Brown were in double-digits.
Within the first three min of the game, Oregon went on a 7-0 run, never letting go of the lead throughout the half. The Ducks even saw an 11-0 run.
“First half we did a much better job fighting and screening,” Altman said. “We just didn’t do a very good job second half. … Utah got the tempo where they wanted it.”
Oregon’s hard work in the first half faded, as they missed 11 threes and shot 8-21 from inside during the second.
“We took some really bad shots that took us out of our rhythm,” Altman said. “Our ball was movement was just horrid. … When you’re not scoring that takes a little energy off especially off a young team and we didn’t have much energy that second half.”
Utah will continue the season knowing that for this Oregon team there will be no chance at redemption, as Friday’s game was the only scheduled matchup between the two this season.
“Just got to forget about this one and focus on the next one,” Oregon forward Roman Sorkin said. “Just put the energy into the next game and really focus into that.”
The Oregon Ducks will look to regroup as they play Colorado for a New Year’s Eve game Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena, starting at 7 p.m.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni
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