Oregon locks down Utah in 66-54 win in Pac-12 quarterfinals
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two down, two to go for the Oregon Ducks and their dominant defense.
“I loved our defensive effort,” said Ducks coach Dana Altman, who agreed to a contract extension through 2025-26 earlier Thursday. “It kept us in the first half, and we were able to find a way in the second.”
The sixth-seeded Ducks (20-12) had a second straight strong defensive game in the Pac-12 tournament to get halfway to their goal of four wins in four days.
Oregon caused the Utes problems with its press even without forcing many turnovers, often making them run their offense deep into the shot clock. The Ducks had Utah’s leading scorer Sedrick Barefield in foul trouble in the first half and held him to two points on 2-of-12 shooting. He was 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
Francis Okoro tied the Pac-12 tournament record with six blocked shots to help Oregon move on to face Arizona State in Friday’s semifinals.
No. 3 seed Utah (17-14) struggled to find an offensive rhythm, shooting 34 percent and 2 of 23 of from the 3-point line.
Donnie Tillman led the Utes with 18 points.
“Definitely give them credit,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “As we all know, it’s Oregon’s defense that’s put them in the position they’re in right now. And with as physical as the game is, it fits their blueprint.”
The Ducks put on a defensive show in their Pac-12 opener, snagging 14 steals while holding Washington State to 31 percent shooting in the 55-47 win. It was the fifth straight game Oregon held its opponent to under 62 points, a run that began shortly after coach Dana Altman shifted to a starting lineup with four 6-foot-9 players.
That earned the Ducks a rematch with Utah, which they beat by two in last year’s Pac-12 semifinals on Kenny Wooten’s game-ending blocked shot. Oregon also beat the Utes in their lone meeting this season, 78-72 in Salt Lake City.
Both teams clamped down on defense in the quarterfinals, neither giving an inch.
Utah had a stretch of more than six minutes without a field goal and shot 8 for 21 in the first half. Barefield was limited to eight minutes after picking up two fouls.
Oregon had a scoreless drought of 5 1/2 minutes and went 8 for 29.
The Utes led 24-18 at halftime.
“That first half, our defense did keep us in it,” Altman said. “As poorly as we played offensively, we were still in the ballgame.”
The Ducks started making shots in the second half and the Utes didn’t. Oregon stretched the lead to nine with seven minutes left and never let Utah make a push.
Oregon made 17 of 28 shots in the second half. The Utes went 1 for 13 from the 3-point arc in the second half.
“It was just one of those games. Shots just weren’t going in,” Tillman said. “A number of great looks, it just wasn’t falling.”
Utah had trouble with the Ducks’ constant pressure all night and missed numerous open shots when it got them.
Oregon’s defense has hit its prime at just the right time.
Utah waits to see if will get a postseason tournament invite.
Oregon plays Arizona State in the semifinals.