Pac-12 Tournament: Utes can’t hang with Oregon, fall to Ducks in Championship

IMG_8045 Emily Juchau

Playing in the Pac-12 Championship game for the first time ever, Utah failed to show up and lost to Oregon 88-57 in the MGM Garden Arena on Saturday night.

The Utes ended with 20 turnovers and made just 19 field goals. Jakob Poeltl was the only Ute player to finish scoring in double digits with 13 points. Oregon out-rebounded Utah 36-25, 17 of which came from offensive boards. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak does not make any excuses for the team’s poor performances.

“We got pummeled on the glass, and, for whatever reason, we threw a bunch of ill-advised passes,” Krystkowiak said. “We weren’t engaged, and credit goes to Oregon. They were the better team. They deserved to win, and we weren’t able to recover from not being ready out of the gates.”

Oregon drained a couple of early three-pointers to establish an 8-2 lead. Brandon Taylor pump faked to get Oregon in the air, then drained his own three, and Poeltl got a dunk to bring the Utes within just one point early on.

After a basket from each team, Poeltl was fouled down low and gave the Utes their first lead of night at the 11:47 mark. Oregon quickly got back on top when it drained its third three-pointer to lead 13-11.

Taylor was then fouled while shooting a three-pointer, but he only made two free throws to tie the game at 13. Oregon took advantage of Utah’s mishaps, such as when both Taylor and Kyle Kuzma missed back-to-back layups, and jumped out by five points again. Oregon’s full-court press was proving effective as Taylor stepped out of bounds, returning the ball to the Ducks, who scored on the ensuing possession.

Taylor ended Oregon’s 11-0 run when he made a three-pointer, but the Utes were playing sloppy, and the Ducks continued to take full advantage. With four minutes left in the half, Oregon held a 29-16 lead, and it didn’t get any better for the Utes.

Closing out the half, Oregon missed a three-pointer, but Utah neglected to box out and the Ducks got an easy putback. Oregon led 38-21 after the first 20 minutes as the Utes turned the ball over 13 times at that point. They were also just 6-of-15 from the floor, whereas Oregon was 16-of-35.

“The difference in my opinion — 38 points at halftime that they had, 19 of them were off of our turnovers, 11 were on the offensive glass, so 30 of their 38,” Krystkowiak said. “Can’t give any team easy baskets.”

The Utes opened up the second half much as they played in the first. They made turnovers and missed easy cutbacks, as Oregon got out to a 21-point lead. After a couple of minutes went by, it seemed like the Utes were playing with more of a sense of urgency, but it was to no avail as they couldn’t find the bottom of the net.

Oregon drained a three-pointer to go up by 24 points. Taylor tried to respond with his own but shot an air ball. The Ducks soon led by 31 points and kept this lead for the rest of the half. The Ducks remained focused and wouldn’t allow Utah to get anywhere near them.

With the NCAA Tournament coming up later this week, Taylor knows the entire team needs to refocus and move on from this loss.

“I have to be way better, especially in a game of that magnitude, playing a team like Oregon,” Taylor said. “We got to take care of the ball if we want to be a part of something elite. We didn’t show an elite performance tonight.”

The Utes will find out their seeding, opponent and destination for the NCAA Tournament during the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday afternoon.