In what can only be described as “the usual,” the University of Utah men’s basketball team fell to the University of Oregon and out of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, 66-54.
After earning a first-round bye, the No. 3 University of Utah men’s basketball team took on the No. 6 University of Oregon in the 2019 Pac-12 basketball tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Coming into the game, the Utes, while being the four-point underdog, still had the higher seed and the extra night’s rest to give them an extra boost in energy. They showed that higher energy early on, taking a double-digit lead into halftime only to see it slip away in the second.
This game marks the second first-round exit for the Utah basketball teams, as the women’s basketball team fell to the Washington Huskies just days ago, in another heartbreaking performance in which the Utes were completely outclassed.
The Ducks played Wednesday against the Washington State University Cougars, a game which they won 84-51, the largest margin of victory in tournament history. Heading into the tournament, Oregon was one of the hotter teams in the conference, and the Utes, while winning three of four to close out the season as the No. 3 seed, were still the underdogs heading into their first game of the tournament.
The Ducks gained an early possession but it was Utah that led the scoring run. The Utes led six points early before the Ducks made a brief comeback, taking a one-point lead for just over two minutes. Oregon lost their brief momentum as the Utes went on an eleven point run to end the half. Utah hit double digits early, and Oregon was held to less than ten points for much of the quarter.
At the half, Oregon’s leading scorer was Louis King with five points. Utah had a little better luck in the first half as Donnie Tillman led the team with twelve points.
The defense played a major factor heading into halftime as the Utes held Oregon to 18 points. The Utes didn’t fare much better against the Ducks as Utah was only able to score 24 points themselves.
Outside of Tillman, no other player from either team contributed more than five points to the totals. Although Utah has been strong from the three-point line this season, they were only 1 for 10 at halftime. Utah finished 2 of 23 from three-point land in the game, shooting an awful 8.7 percent from beyond the arc.
A defensively dominated first half of the quarterfinal led to a low shooting percentage for both teams. Utah shot 38 percent from the floor while Oregon competed with an abysmal 28 percent. Oregon made the necessary offensive changes in the second half, finishing shooting 44 percent from the field against Utah’s 34 percent.
The second half began with an Oregon possession, and the Ducks started off with six quick points to tie up the game at 24 within the first five minutes of the half.
The Utes started the second half at a snail’s pace as Jayce Johnson would score the first basket off of a pass from Timmy Allen just over five minutes in. Utah would only score two more points in the next four minutes of play thanks to Allen hitting two foul shots. During the first 10 minutes in the half, the Ducks went on a 22-8 run, extending their lead after King’s three-pointer 38-32.
The rest of the game did not look good for the Utes, as they were able to add only 30 points to their halftime total. Utah was outscored by 18 points by the Ducks and Oregon walked away with a 66-54 victory.
“I think Oregon’s defense needs a lot of credit,” said Utah head coach Larry Kristkowiak. “They played great, real physical.”
Kristkowiak also commented on Utah’s lack of offensive production, namely in the three-point game. “Two for 23 and we’ve been pretty dependant on the three-point basket all season. A number of those were good looks.”
This was the final Pac-12 game for the Utes this season. Although the NCAA Tournament is a bit of a stretch goal at this point, especially following such a dismal end, the team will likely see an appearance in the NIT tournament as they have for the past two seasons.
The Utes ended the season with a 17-14 (11-8 in conference) overall record, and although they did not see success in this tournament, the team played a strong season on the whole.