Dillon Brooks fell just short of a triple-double, but his efforts were more than enough to lift No. 16 ranked Oregon (20-4, 9-2 Pac-12) past Utah (17-7, 6-5).
The Ducks have now won six straight games, remaining atop of the conference standings.
For the second time this season, Brooks, who finished with a game-high 30 points, career-high nine assists and six rebounds against the Utes, stepped up when it mattered most. With his perfected mid-range jumpers and multitude of drive-and-dish creations, Brooks looked and played like the best player on the floor.
In the last five games, Brooks has averaged 21.4 points on 51 percent shooting.
“Dillon was confident, made a lot of shots, and did a lot of good things,” Elgin Cook said. “He’s been a leader on and off the court. That’s what we need from him.”
Dana Altman agreed with his players and media members that this was one of, if not his best game of his career.
“I don’t know if it was his best – he’s had some great ones – but it ranks right up there,” Altman said. “It was a good performance.”
As long as Oregon “finishes strong,” Altman believes Brooks should be in the conversation for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Just this past week, Brooks not only grabbed his first career Pac-12 and National Player of the Week honors, but he was also named a finalist for the Julius Erving Award, which is given to the nation’s top small forward. Brooks joined LSU’s Ben Simmons, Duke’s Brandon Ingram, Kansas’ Wayne Selden and Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine.
Late in the second half, the Utes pushed for one last run. Hovering around a 10-point deficit for the last six minutes, the game was still very much in reach. But when the possessions got tighter and the pressure ramped up, Oregon wisely reverted to Brooks who had the obvious hot hand.
Multiple times down the final stretch, Brooks was handed the ball with the shot clock running down.
The first time, he delivered with a seamless spin move that led to an easy finish at the rim. The second time, he calmly splashed home a three-pointer that put a dagger on the game. Both times, Brooks made sure the Utes couldn’t creep back into the game.
“He’s playing defense better, his body looks a lot better, he’s confident, shooting the ball a lot better and his feel for the game is just better,” Elgin Cook said.
From a game plan standpoint, Oregon was sound all across the board. Limiting projected NBA lottery pick Jakob Poeltl to 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting and the Utes to just 19 points outside of Jordan Loveridge (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Kyle Kuzma (18 points, six rebounds), the Ducks proved once more that their defense wins games. Boucher and Bell both finished with three blocks.
Offensively, the Ducks had four players finish in double figures: Chris Boucher with 15 points, Cook with 12 and Bell with 10.
With seven games remaining on the conference schedule and an NCAA tournament in sight, this team knows it still has room to grow. For a team that has played without Villanova graduate-transfer Dylan Ennis, they like where they’re at and where they’re headed.
“In our mind, we’re playing like we’re last in the Pac-12,” Jordan Bell said. “We’re playing hungry, aggressive (like) we’re going to go out there and prove something every single night, regardless of who we’re playing.”
Next, Oregon will travel back down to the Bay Area schools to face California on Thursday and Stanford on Saturday.
Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim