Pac-12 Tournament: Runnin’ Utes face Oregon in Pac-12 Championship

_MG_7811 Emily Juchau

In the Championship Game of the Pac-12 Tournament, the Runnin’ Utes will face the Oregon Ducks, a squad they were unable to get a win against in the regular season.

The first time the two teams squared off this season, the Ducks took care of business and got a 77-59 win in the Huntsman Center. The second go-around, in Eugene, Utah was still suffering some side effects from a loss at Oregon State and dropped the game 76-66.

Since then, however, the Utes have won all of their games, with Friday night’s win over Cal being their ninth in a row.

The Utes’ emotions are riding high after an overtime win against Cal late Friday night, but they have confidence that they will be able to focus on beating the Ducks for the first time this season. Point guard Brandon Taylor has a lot of respect for what the Ducks have accomplished this season and won’t be slacking off at all once the first whistle sounds.

“They’re a tremendous group of guys,” Taylor said. “They play together, they’re so well-coached, and they run their sets to a ‘T,’ and they have some good players. They have some good senior leadership cooking. We just have to be dialed in on personnel.”

While Taylor is sure Oregon’s seniors will step it up, he’ll be counting on himself, Jordan Loveridge and Jakob Poeltl to bring it Saturday night in the MGM.

Poeltl finished with 29 points against the Golden Bears and is sure he can replicate the performance against Oregon, despite the quick turnaround. Making it to this game has been a long-time goal of Utah’s, and they don’t plan on losing sight of the trophy.

“I think we’re not going to be in trouble fitness-wise tomorrow because it’s a championship game — the adrenaline’s going to start kicking in,” Poeltl said. “That’s what we practice for all season long.”

Although head coach Larry Krystkowiak is not telling anyone what the Utes have in store for the conference finale, he seems to have just as much faith as any one of his players.

“We’ve got a great game plan, but we can’t tell you about it,” Krystkowiak said.

Taylor is anxious to get back on the court for the Utes’ first-ever appearance in the Pac-12 Championship game and has no doubt his team will come out on top.

“We’re up to something,” Taylor said. “I think we’re the hottest team in the Pac-12. I think we’re going to win the championship and we’re going to show that Utah Basketball is here.”

Game time is set for 7 p.m. PT.