Playing catchup didn’t work in the Utes favor as the No. 10 Oregon Ducks defeated Utah in the Huntsman Center 73-67.
Utah controlled much of the first 20 minutes, however, the Utes started to play a bit carelessly towards the end of that first, and Oregon entered the break with a 33-31 lead. The Ducks had a firm grasp on the second half as they worked their way to a 13 point lead, but the Utes started to chip away at it.
With less than a minute left to play, Utah had an opportunity to make it a two point game, but Utah missed shots down the stretch, and it sealed the win for the Ducks.
“[We] shot ourselves in the foot in a number of different ways,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “If you’re playing the number 10 team in the country you got to play better. You can’t miss layups, and you can’t turn it over that many times where you put too much defensive pressure on yourself.”
The Utes turned the ball over 15 times, and they finished shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 31.6 percent from three-point range.
Kyle Kuzma was the leading scorer for the Utes as he finished with 18 points, and he added nine rebounds. Devon Daniels was next with 11 points. David Collette returned to the starting lineup after not traveling with the team to Washington last week, and he finished with 10 points.
Kuzma wasn’t happy with how the Utes played on either end of the floor.
“We stood around a lot of times,” Kuzma said. “We had a lot of careless turnovers within their press, but we got a young team, and we got to be poised and shake this off.”
Early on, Utah had an early 12-6 lead in the game, but Oregon didn’t let anything get out of hand.
Dillon Brooks evenutally tied the game at 14, and Utah fans weren’t too happy with the way the game was being called. Oregon’s defense forced Utah to make tough shots, but Sedrick Barefield put Utah on top 19-16. Parker Van Dyke hit a three-pointer on Utah’s next possession, and the Utes led 22-16. Oregon closed the gap to one point, but Van Dyke made a long jumper to make it a three point game, 24-21.
After another Oregon basket, Kuzma hit his first three of the night, and the game stayed competitive for the remainder of the first half.
Utah continued to hold the lead, however, the Ducks went on top after an alley-oop dunk from Brooks to Chris Boucher. After a sloppy misguided final possession for the Utes — a sloppy final six minutes for that matter as the Utes turned it over four times — Oregon entered the locker room with a 33-31 lead.
Utah took a brief 36-35 lead at the beginning of the second half when Daniels hit a three-pointer, but he committed foul on the other end of the court, and Oregon tied the game after hitting a free throw. Oregon then reclaimed the lead after a three point play to go up 39-36.
Following another Utah basket, Van Dyke hit a three-pointer that put the Utes up 41-40. However, that lead was short-lived as Oregon answered it with its own three point play. An Oregon dunk gave the Ducks a 44-41 advantage, and a three-pointer from Casey Benson extended the Ducks’ lead to six points.
After a made free throw and another dunk the Ducks had a nine point lead, 52-43. Oregon maintained that nine point lead for a few minutes, and it took its first double digit lead of the night after making a free throw, 59-49. A three-pointer gave the Ducks a 62-49 advantage.
The Utes trimmed the lead seven points, and after some back and forth play Kuzma hit a three-pointer with 1:40 left to make it a four point play. Utah could have made it a two point game, but Collette missed a layup as Oregon went on to win by six points.
Next up the Utes will face Oregon State on Saturday Jan. 28 at 5 p.m., and Krystkowiak hopes his guys can sharpen up their play.
“We got a long way to go — in order to reach your full potential you got to win games like this,” Krystkowiak said. “You don’t get red ribbons for second place like I used to for track back in middle school.”