With the Utah Utes winning their last game of the season against the UCLA Bruins, they have been set to be the No. 3 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament. The Utes had the opportunity to sit back and relax this week as they earned themselves a first-round bye. Now, with No. 6 Oregon defeating No. 11 Washington State, the Utes (17-13) are set to take on the Ducks (19-12).
The Utes dominated UCLA in their final regular season matchup. Four Utes were in double-digits in scoring, as the Utes shot 45.6 percent overall from the field while draining 44.7 percent from behind the arc. Utah was able to limit their turnovers and never allowed UCLA to get into the game. Utah won by 11 points, and they’re as motivated as ever to make a statement in this year’s tournament.
As for the Oregon Ducks, they’re fresh off a dominating win against the Washington State Cougars. The Ducks lead the Cougars by 17 points entering halftime, and it only got better for Oregon after that. They outscored the Cougars 47-31 in the second half, as the Ducks were able to win in a comfortable way. With Oregon being one of the hottest Pac-12 teams and just demolishing Washington State by 33 points, that firepower might be enough to extinguish Utah’s plucky attitude.
In a game between the Ducks and the Utes in late January, Utah was able to take an early lead in the first half, however, they collapsed in what would be a disappointing six point loss to Oregon. Utah struggled from behind the arc that game, as they shot a poor 5/16.
Oregon freshman Louis King has been playing some great basketball this season, averaging 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Utah’s Sedrick Barefield should be able to take on King, though. Barefield has participated in big tournament games before in the NCAA level, as opposed to King, who hasn’t been in many big games as of yet. This is a match-up to look out for.
Oregon senior Paul White has also been playing good basketball recently and has definitely picked up the slack from the beginning of the season. White has been averaging 10.5 points per game on 45.1 percent overall shooting from the field while shooting 37 percent from behind the arc. Utah struggled to defend him the last time they played, as he went to the charity stripe six times in the game. White is a versatile forward and has the ability to guard every player for the Utes. Utah needs to take advantage of their size, by utilizing players like Jayce Johnson and Both Gach, in order to limit White.
Utah lost to the Ducks just a month and a half back, but Utah has the opportunity to redeem themselves since then. It was one of the worst losses for Utah all year long — with fans leaving early — and with Utah choking a double-digit lead in just a matter of a few minutes, this team needs to play angry. Overall, this season has been disappointing for Utah and it’s time for them to prove that a previous loss doesn’t mean they’re out of the fight.
Tip-off between the Utes and Ducks is set to be at 8:30 p.m. PT at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. This game will be televised on ESPN.