Fresh off a tough win over Colorado, the Ducks hosted the Utah Utes at Matthew Knight Arena. In the first matchup between these two teams, Oregon prevailed by a score of 79-73 back in January and looked to sweep the series against the Utes, who look to rebound from a tough 74-56 loss to the Oregon State Beavers. The Ducks have seemed to find their groove lately despite some close wins, and looked to make it 5 straight wins Saturday night against Utah.
The Utes started off with the opening basket of the night, but it came at the cost of one of their starting big men, as sophomore Brandon Carlson came down hard on his left side and had to be helped off the floor. Carlson was able to return a few minutes later, good to see he wasn’t seriously injured. Meanwhile, Eugene Omoruyi and LJ Figueroa started off hot for the Ducks, scoring ten points between the two of them. Despite a hot start, Utah was able to take the lead due to some crafty playmaking and a few unfortunate turnovers on the behalf of Oregon. If the Ducks wanted to win, they needed to cut down on the mistakes and start forcing Utah into some of their own.
With ten minutes left, Utah held a 20-17 lead. Both teams have looked good passing the ball around and working hard to find the open man, but Utah was still playing mistake-free ball and were able to keep in front of the Ducks. Eugene Omoruyi was leading the charge for Oregon with 10 points early on, which was good to see considering he was held scoreless in Oregon’s previous win over Utah. For the Utes, Alfonso Plummer was heating up, after missing his first three shots, he started to find a rhythm as the half went on, quickly proving that he needed to have someone on him at all times.
A flagrant foul on Chandler Lawson gave Utah the lead back at 31-30 in the closing minutes, but Oregon was turning up the defensive pressure, as the Utes hadn’t scored a basket for over four minutes. It was good to see that the Ducks were tightening up on defense after Utah was able to pick them apart with concise passing earlier in the game. Utah took a 35-33 lead into the break.
The Ducks got the second half started out on the right foot, forcing three Utah turnovers, and retaking the lead, 38-37. Chris Duarte returned to the game after sitting a good chunk of the first half due to foul trouble. Getting him going again was going to be key for the Ducks. A hook shot by Lawson gave the Ducks a 42-39 lead and forced Utah to take a timeout and reorganize. Figueroa knocked down a deep three to help end a shooting drought for the Ducks, but Utah stayed close on their heels thanks to the efforts of Plummer and Allen.
The second half continued to remain a close one, as the Ducks led 52-51 with nine minutes left. Freshman point guard Jalen Terry was able to make an impact, scoring a couple baskets in the paint. Playing time for Terry has been scarce since Will Richardson’s return, so it was encouraging seeing him take advantage of the opportunities he’s given. Larsson and Carlson were able to keep Utah close, as they repeatedly found success in the paint against Oregon, taking advantage of of mismatches and Carlson’s height.
Then with less than four minutes to go, Eugene Omoruyi fouled out, the second straight game to do so. It was a big blow for the Ducks, as he was their leading scorer and a defensive pest who frequently guarded Utah’s bigs. Eugene’s foul gave Alfonso Plummer three free throws, which gave Utah the lead, 59-58. Utah made a few more free throws, before Duarte knocked down a big shot to tie it at 61. The game started heating up as both teams traded threes and the score was knotted up at 64 with 94 seconds to go. Figueroa missed a free throw to extend Oregon’s lead, but Utah turned it over on a Timmy Allen double dribble, their second straight critical turnover. A pair of Duarte free throws sealed Oregon’s win, 67-64.