They’ve got a lot of different weapons. Heck of a test. We’re going to have to have a great mindset going in there and be solid. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
EUGENE, Ore. — Matthew Knight Arena has been quite a pond, of sorts, for the seventh-ranked Oregon Ducks. They’ve won 40 straight games on their home floor, including an 85-58 smashing of Arizona on Feb. 4.
“They put a lot of heat on you, particularly at home in that building,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “So we’ve got to be dialed in. There’s a reason that they’re seventh in the country.”
The defending Pac-12 champions are led by junior forward Dillon Brooks, who averages 14.9 points per game. Other double-digit scorers include sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey (13.1 ppg), senior guard Dylan Ennis (10.9 ppg) and junior forward Jordan Bell (10.8 ppg, 8.1 rebounds).
“They’ve got a lot of different weapons. Heck of a test. We’re going to have to have a great mindset going in there and be solid,” Krystkowiak said. “You can’t turn the basketball over against them. They’re already a well-oiled machine when it comes to their transition.”
In reviewing film of Oregon’s 73-67 win over Utah in the Huntsman Center on Jan. 26, Krystkowiak noted that the Utes’ transition defense needs fine-tuning against the Ducks.
“They just do a lot of things well,” said Krystkowiak, who added that Oregon poses problems offensively and defensively. The Ducks are good rebounders and lead the nation in blocked shots (6.9 per game).
“They’re really long and athletic,” said Utah center David Collette. “They’re quick and crafty around the basket.”
Such challenges, though, aren’t the only thing that concerns the Utes. They’ve been getting off to sluggish starts.
In Saturday’s 85-61 win over Washington, an early eight-point deficit led to Krystkowiak breaking a clipboard during a spirited timeout.
“That was definitely a time and a place to blow a gasket to try to wake some guys up,” he said. “I am happy with the way they responded.”
The Utes reeled off 20 straight points to seize control of the game.
“We need to get started better in games,” Krystkowiak acknowledged. “We’ve had a run of a number of games now where we haven’t been dialed in coming out of the gates.”
As such, Krystkowiak said he might tinker with the lineup a bit moving forward.
Collette thinks the Utes have been coming out too relaxed and need to tighten things up.
“That will be a pretty big deal. We’ve had some pretty slow starts the last couple of games and it can’t just happen (at Oregon),” Collette said. “With the environment that they play in and how they get rolling so quick, we have to come out strong and hit them first.”
Utah guard Parker Van Dyke agrees. He considered it a top priority in practice this week, especially against a powerhouse team like Oregon.
“If we’re going to win this game we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go and at our best,” he said.
Van Dyke added that the Utes gained some confidence in the close loss to the Ducks last month. They know they can play with them.
There are other motivating factors as well. Utah (17-8, 8-5) and USC are one game behind California with five to go in the race for a top-four finish and a berth in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals.
“First and foremost the focus is on Oregon, without a doubt,” Krystkowiak said. “But it is something that’s being talked about a little bit, to try to earn a first-round bye.”
Utah plays at Oregon State (4-22, 0-13) on Sunday (6:30 p.m., ESPNU).
EXTRA STUFF: The Utes are averaging 80.5 points per game, the most since they netted 81.7 per outing in 1976-77 ... Oregon leads the all-time series with Utah 18-9. The Ducks have won the last eight meetings ... Utah’s last win in Eugene came in 1951 ... Oregon defeated Utah 88-57 in the 2016 Pac-12 tournament championship game.