SALT LAKE CITY — Jason Washburn savored the moment. After celebrating with his teammates on the court, the senior climbed into the Huntsman Center stands following Utah’s 72-62 victory over 19th-ranked Oregon to share his happiness with the fans.
Washburn scored 20 points and pulled down 13 rebounds as the Utes (13-17, 5-13) pulled off the upset Saturday. They’ve now won back-to-back Pac-12 games for the first time since joining the conference last season. They also locked up the No. 10 seed in next week’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
In addition, the win over the Ducks (23-8, 12-6) was Utah’s first over a ranked team since a 60-58 decision over No. 20 Illinois in Las Vegas on Nov. 27, 2009 and the first topping of a Top 25 opponent at home since a 66-65 triumph over No. 16 Gonzaga on Dec. 31, 2008.
All in all, it was a scenario that left Washburn smiling. The center noted that it couldn’t have been scripted any better.
“As a team we came out from the get-go. I think our seniors were fired up. I think our younger guys were just as fired up, if not more. They wanted this just as badly as we did,” said Washburn, who added that it was more than just a senior night win. “This is the first time we’ve won back-to-back games in the Pac-12. We took down a giant. We took down a Top 25 team and it couldn’t have been done in any more of a spectacular fashion.”
Utah jumped out to a 9-0 advantage and never trailed. Although the Ducks managed to close the deficit to one midway through the first half, the Utes re-gained their momentum and led 44-30 at halftime. They shot 65.5 percent (19 of 29) from the field over the first 20 minutes.
“That was straight energy. We came out aggressive, played hard on defense, didn’t let them get rebounds, pressured them on defense and we actually made shots,” said senior Cedric Martin. “We were just going hard. The crowd got into it. Our adrenalin started going up. And we played off of that.”
Oregon never drew closer than six points the rest of the way.
“We made plays at the right time,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who was especially pleased with how his team rebounded. After getting outboarded 41-19 in a 73-64 loss at Oregon on Feb. 9, the Utes wound up with a 31-28 advantage this time around.
“From an individual statistic, that might be the biggest one against this team for us,” Washburn said.
Krytskowiak, though, liked something else as well — a similarity to Thursday’s 72-61 win over Oregon State.
“The correlation with our two victories here is that we got four guys in double-figures,” he said. “...I think that’s an indication that we’re making some progress.”
Besides Washburn’s contributions, Utah had 15 points from Jarred DuBois and 14 apiece by Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor.
Oregon coach Dana Altman acknowledged that the Utes really took it to the Ducks in the first half by shooting 65 percent and rebounding well.
“We never recovered,” he said.
E.J. Singler led the Ducks, who could have clinched a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title with a victory, with a game-high 21 points.
"We didn't play with the energy, the purpose, focus that we needed to,” Altman said. “In games like this every possession counts and we didn't get to the ball quick enough a number of times."
Overall, the game belonged to Utah. The Utes have fared well this season on special occasions. They prevailed on a couple of nights honoring the late Rick Majerus before coming through again in the home finale for the seniors.
“Seeing the correlation with some of our ceremonies, I’d like to think that maybe we can come up with a few more ceremonies in the future,” Krystkowiak joked.
The postgame vibe was strong. No one epitomized it more than Washburn and his journey into the stands where the MUSS, Utah's student section, sits.
“Those people in that section have been loyal to me and this program since I’ve been here. It seemed only right that I be loyal back. It seemed only right that I gave them their due credit and what they deserve,” Washburn said. “It still wasn’t enough for the appreciation I have for those people in that section and every section that has ever been filled in the Huntsman Center.”
Washburn and the Utes are now headed to Vegas and the conference tournament. They’ll face USC or Washington Wednesday at 7 p.m. (MST) at the MGM Grand Arena.
“We know that we’re better than (our record),” Washburn said. “And we know that we are going to go down to the tournament and we’re not going to back down from anybody.”
EXTRA STUFF: The attendance was 11,628. ... Loveridge finished with seven rebounds and three steals. ... The Utes outscored the Ducks 12-0 on fast-break points and 34-21 in the paint. ... Utah went 11-7 in the Huntsman Center this season