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Oregon Opens Conference Play Against Utah

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Oregon Joseph Weiser-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks (10-3) host the Utah Utes (8-3) as Pac-12 play officially begins for both teams.

A lengthy holiday break for Oregon has given coach Dana Altman time to assess his current roster. The Ducks ride a five-game winning streak heading into the matchup against the Utes at Matthew Knight Arena.

Wins against Portland State and Fresno State highlight the current streak as both teams had winning streaks of their own before defeat.

But issues remain for the offense and the defense with the start of conference play. In the last game against Central Arkansas, hot shooting around the perimeter gave Oregon the advantage. The shot went cold to start the second half, and the Bears found themselves back into the game. Oregon would use a late run to put the game away.

Kenny Wooten has stood out defensively in his last starts with his shot-blocking prowess. His all-around game has ignited the Ducks in the second half.

Defensively, cutting down mistakes will be pivotal as Oregon is allowing second-chance opportunities on rebounds. Also, the Ducks must set a physical tone defensively to start games.

Coach Altman hopes the Ducks will have motivation against conference opponents. In the Phil Knight Invitational, coach Altman was displeased in the efforts against Connecticut and Oklahoma. Oregon has come out active in the past against Pac-12 opponents.

Payton Pritchard will lead the charge of the offense, averaging 16 points per game. Pritchard continues to get better each game after becoming a starter last season as a freshman. He has gotten help from fellow teammates, Troy Brown and Paul White.

Eyes will be on graduate transfer, Elijah Brown, and his offensive production. Brown averaged over 20 points per game at New Mexico against conference opponents. He has shown flashes of his abilities but now must be consistent.

Utah is 2-2 in their last four games entering the contest against Oregon. The Utes began the season on a four-game winning streak before losing against UNLV. Quality losses to Butler and BYU also mark the other losses on the season.

David Collette is the leading scorer for Utah with about 14 points per game. Justin Bibbins and Tyler Rawson are averaging double-digits in scoring to pace the Utes. Rawson has been a defensive standout, leading the team with 16 blocks.

Last season, Utah did not fare well in Eugene, losing 79-61. Oregon was ranked in the top-10. The Ducks took both games against the Utes, edging out a win on the road, 73-67.

Tipoff begins at 7:00 p.m. with a telecast on FS1.