Eighteen years ago under a second-year head coach, the Utah basketball team defeated Oregon 95-81 in the sixth game of the season to go to 5-1 on the season.
Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center, under second-year coach Jim Boylen, the Utes knocked off Oregon by a score of 95-81 to improve to 5-1 on the season.
Now we're not saying this is a sign of things to come after all, the Utes went 30-4 that year under coach Rick Majerus. But the Utes certainly seem to be headed in the right direction this season.
The Utes ran and shot the run-and-shoot Ducks right out of the gym while getting contributions from several players in the process.
Tyler Kepkay and Shaun Green came off the bench to score 23 and 21 points, respectively, with a combined 8-for-16 from 3-point range.
Luke Nevill had what Boylen called "the most quiet 18 (points) and 10 (rebounds) since I've been here, " with his fourth double-double of the season.
Luka Drca overcame six turnovers to finish with nine assists, eight points and six rebounds, while taking just one shot on the night. Lawrence Borha scored 11 and freshman Jordan Cyphers added nine.
For this night anyway, the Utes put the "Runnin" back in their name with their highest point total in five seasons.
"Besides our defensive foundation, the second thing we've worked on the most is our running game," said Boylen. "It's been a big point of emphasis."
Boylen said he got a hard time from fans in the summer, who told him "I thought you guys were the Runnin' Utes." He said he likes the fact that his team has the ability to win a game 42-40 or 95-81.
"We're getting there," he said. "That's a goal of ours to become a running team. We play in the half court and share it and also run and share it, and I thought we did both tonight real well."
Utah jumped out to a 54-42 halftime lead and led by as many as 19 points in the second half.
In the early going, the Utes had several passes picked off on the wings, as the Ducks led 15-12 and 18-17. But after Green sank a 3-pointer and Kepkay followed with back-to-back layups, the second off a steal, the Utes were ahead to stay.
In the second half, the Utes kept on running and sinking 3s and stretched the lead to 19 at 68-49 just six minutes into the half. If it hadn't been for Oregon's outstanding freshman guard Garrett Sim, who scored 28 points on 10-of-14 from the field after coming in with an 8.0 average, the Utes would have won going away.
"You've got to give Sim credit he made shots," Boylen said. "But I didn't think he or the other guys could make enough shots to beat us. We try to take away (teams') first option."
Boylen said the Utes worked all week on slowing guard Tajuan Porter, a three-year starter, who finished with 14 points. The Ducks were missing starting freshman center Michael Dunigan, but Boylen felt the Ducks were even harder to play against with their small lineup.
The Ducks closed the gap to 84-74, but could never get the deficit under 10 points.
The Utes, who came into the game as the No. 9-ranked shooting team in the country, shot 58.2 percent from the field (32 of 55) and 52.2 percent from 3-point range (12-of-23). They also outrebounded the Ducks, 41 to 23.
"I've asked my team to defend, rebound and run and I thought we rebounded our butts off tonight," said Boylen.
About the only thing the Utes didn't do was hit the century mark for the first time in 13 years. When asked why his team couldn't make it to 100 points, Boylen joked, "We've got to get the taco deal. If we get the taco deal, maybe we'll get to 100."
The Utes head out on the road for the third straight weekend for a game against Idaho State Saturday night in Pocatello. Next Wednesday, Utah plays another Pac-10 opponent in unbeaten California.
UTE NOTES: Ute football coach Kyle Whittingham, who was named MWC coach of the year earlier in the day, received a standing ovation when the video scoreboard showed him sitting in the crowd. ... Attendance was 9,290. ... Boylen took the mike after the game to thank the fans for supporting his team. ... Last year in Portland, the Ducks defeated the Utes 75-64. ... Utah's last win over Oregon came in 2003 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Nashville (60-58).
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