The 19th-ranked Oregon Ducks (11 - 5) welcomed the Utah Utes (10 - 5) for a “Covid make-up” game on Wednesday morning. The game was originally scheduled for December 31, but was postponed after the Utes reported Covid cases in their program. Oregon was coming off a win at Washington, featuring a late surge by the Ducks to close out the Huskies. Wednesday’s game against the Utes turned out to be an up-and-down struggle, with some excellent defense by both teams. Oregon finally used some late free throws and defensive stops to close out the Utes 70 - 66.
Both teams came out playing tough defense, and cold from the floor. The back-and-forth action went scoreless for almost 2 and one-half minutes, before Utah scored the game’s first points. Oregon came right back with a Sydney Parrish 3 to take its first lead. Nyara Sabally and Te-Hina PaoPao sandwiched baskets around a Utah 3 to give Oregon a 7 - 5 lead with 6:17 left in the quarter. PaoPao scored again and Sabally blocked a Utah drive inside. When Endyia Rogers hit a 2, Oregon had stretched its lead to 11 - 5 with 4:48 left. Oregon missed its next two shots, however, and Utah made 2 layups and a 3-pointer to take the lead at 12 - 11. With the game tied at 13 after a series of free throw attempts, Oregon went on a late-quarter mini-run as Rogers and Chanaya Pinto hit layups (Pinto’s on an incredible entry pass from PaoPao), and Rogers hit one of two free throws to close out the quarter and give the Ducks an 18 - 13 lead.
The second turned out to be one of the least productive quarters for Oregon this season. Utah cranked up its defensive rotation, and the Ducks hit a shooting cold streak. Early on, PaoPao hit 2 shots as the Utes managed a single basket to give Oregon a 22 - 15 lead with 7:43 left in the quarter. The Utes, however, stormed back with 9 straight points to take a 24 - 22 lead over the next 5 minutes. In addition, Sabally picked up her second foul during this segment and went to the bench for the remainder of the half. Oregon missed 6 straight shots and had a turnover before Taylor Hosendove hit 2 free throws to tie the game at 24 with 2:27 left. Oregon’s scoring drought from the field reached more than 6 minutes before PaoPao hit a short jumper after a Utah 3. Parrish hit a layup to give the Ducks a short-lived 28 - 27 lead before Utah hit two free throws with 10 seconds left in the half. The Utes took a 29 - 28 lead into the locker room.
PaoPao led Oregon with 10 points in the half and Rogers added 5. Prince grabbed 3 rebounds. Oregon shot only 7 percent (1 - 14) from 3-point range in the first half, and 34 percent overall from the field.
The Ducks came out for the second half with a completely different offensive gameplan. Having been able to generate only one shot and 2 points for Sabally in the first half - due in part to foul trouble - Oregon worked the ball through her on almost every possession early in the third quarter. Sabally responded by scoring 3 baskets inside, and kicking the ball out for a Parrish three, giving Oregon a 40 - 31 lead, it’s largest of the day. The run of excellent play through Sabally came to an end, however, when she was whistled for her third foul and returned to the bench with 5:18 left in the quarter. Utah made both free throws to close to 40 - 35. The teams traded missed shots, turnovers and offensive fouls until the Utes hit a 3, followed by Oregon baskets from PaoPao and Ahlise Hurst put Oregon up 44 - 38 with 2:40 left. Oregon stretched its lead back to 8 after a Hurst 3 and a Kylee Watson basket inside, but the Utes nailed a 3 with 8 seconds in the quarter to close to 49 - 44.
As the final quarter began, Oregon continued to have good success working through Sabally. She matched a Utah basket, and when Rogers hit a left-handed layup after changing hands mid-air, Oregon led 53 - 46. Utah, though, wouldn’t just go away, and scored 5 straight points to close to 53 - 51 at 7:25. Pinto made one of two free throws, and Sabally made a tough shot inside with Ute defenders hanging on her for her 11th and 12th points of the game and a 5 point Oregon lead. Sabally scored again on another tough drive, but then picked up her 4th foul on a very, very interesting piece of officiating with 6:04 left. Sabally returned with 4:29 remaining. Utah closed to 2 points again with 2 more free throws. The teams again traded missed shots and turnovers, until the Utes finally scored to tie the game at 60 with 2:30 left to play. Sabally then hit 1 of 2 free throws, and Parrish nailed a 3 to give Oregon some breathing room at 64 - 60 with 1:48 left. Utah scored on a put-back of a miss and Oregon began a parade to the foul line. Down the stretch, Parrish made 2 from the charity stripe, Sabally blocked a shot, then Rogers made 2 more free throws and Oregon led 68 - 62 with 40 seconds to play. Utah scored a layup, and then made a steal and converted 2 free throws of their own and the game was 68 - 66 with 21 seconds left. PaoPao and Rogers each made 1 of 2 free throws and Oregon’s defense forced two Utah misses from the field as time ran out.
For the game, Oregon scoring was led by Sabally’s 15 points. Rogers had 14, and PaoPao and Parrish each chipped in 13. PaoPao and Pinto had 5 rebounds each and PaoPao also led the Ducks with 5 assists. Oregon’s 3-point shooting improved in the second half, as they made 4 of 9 from beyond the arc after halftime. The team shot 46.4 percent overall from the floor and went 13 - 19 from the free throw line.
Oregon will have two more games this week, welcoming the Los Angeles schools to the friendly confines of Matthew Knight Arena, starting Friday with UCLA at 8:00 pm. The USC Trojans visit Sunday at Noon.