These two teams just met less than a week ago and Utah came away with not only a victory but a little bit of Oregon's spirit at the same time. The Utes took away a chance for the Ducks to grab only their second conference championship in 65 years and now it's payback time.
Six days ago these two teams met in conference play and were at opposite ends of the conference spectrum. Utah had just beaten OSU a few days before for only their second victory in two months. Oregon was one win away from a conference championship.
The play on the court that night was opposite as well. Utah man-handled Oregon. Inside and out. The Utes shot 57% for the game (68% in the first half), out rebounded the Ducks and forced 15 turnovers. Oregon didn't help their own cause very much either as they only shot 59% from the free throw line (many of which killed or stalled comeback attempts) and often times left Utah players wide open for easy looks.
Arsalan Kazemi had one of his worst games of his Oregon career. He was 0-2 from the field, 5-11 from the line, only grabbed 4 rebounds and had 3 turnovers. After the Uw win in the second round last night, Arsalan talked about his recent struggles. It was easy to tell that his recent play has not sat well with him.
A huge key to tonight will be on Kazemi on both ends of the floor. Offensively he needs to attack and finish around the rim. Utah goes 3 deep in their front court, but coming off back-to-back games their legs are not going to be as fresh. Kazemi needs to get offensive put backs, move around the court like he does and make his man move with him. On defense he'll be guarding one of Utah's biggest weapon in Jordan Loveridge. Loveridge has a very similar game to Kazemi, only he's not afraid to step out and hit shot from deep. Kazemi can't lose him on defense.
Another key to tonight will be how Altman attacks the tired Utes. Utah is an efficient offense. They'll take the open look if you give it to them, but they're just as happy to wind the shot clock down, make you guard them for the full 35 seconds and then hit big shots. Look for Altman to try and push the tempo early. Test their legs. A full court press and falling back into a zone will pressure Utah and make them work, and then allow Oregon to rest a little on the defensive ends themselves.
Another match up to pay particular attention to will be Damyean Dotson and Jarred Dubois. Dubois has been on fire as of late with 22 against USC and 21 against Cal. The last time these two met Dotson put up a bagel and Dubois broke the Ducks backs multiple times with end of shot clock pull ups.
The first tourney game for the Ducks was a turning point for both Dotson and Kazemi. Dotson came out hot and propelled the Ducks early. Kazemi returned to his old form in overtime and gave Oregon the victory. Tonight is an opportunity to get redemption against a team that was a low point for both of these guys this season.
The conference championship is no longer on the line, but the chance to play for the tourney championship is. The Ducks let it go the last time these two teams met, that's not going to happen tonight.