EUGENE, Ore. — Less than a year ago, the Utah Utes quacked under the pressure of the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena. They suffered the most lopsided loss in program history — a 94-48 setback.
Oregon celebrated its “Senior Night” by opening the game with a 34-2 run en route to building a 52-14 halftime advantage in the regular-season finale for both teams.
“In my mind, Oregon is the toughest place to play in terms of an environment,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “That’s based on ‘Senior Night’ for me last year when I’m not sure anybody was going to go into that building, to be honest, and beat that team the way that was setting itself up. We certainly laid an egg to end the season."
Unfortunately for the Utes, this year’s visit to Eugene may not be any easier.
Saturday’s game pits a Utah team coming off an 82-64 loss at last-place Oregon State and a 19th-ranked Oregon squad that is smarting after having a 20-game home winning streak snapped with a 48-47 loss to Colorado.
“This is a rallying point for the team,” said Ducks coach Dana Altman. “We need a lot of energy on Saturday.”
The Ducks, who were ranked 10th earlier this season, have lost three straight games while freshman point guard Dominic Artis has been sidelined with a foot injury.
Following the loss to Colorado, Oregon senior E.J. Singler acknowledged there’s a sense of urgency to get a promising season back on track.
“We cannot have these losses weigh us down,” he said. “We have to keep playing and get back into a momentum.”
Although the Ducks (18-5, 7-3) were picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12’s preseason media poll, they’ve already defeated three nationally ranked teams — UNLV, Arizona and UCLA.
“I think that’s a testament to Dana Altman and what they’ve done. I think it has been a surprise,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s one of the teams early on that most of the experts thought would be in the middle of the pack, maybe at best.”
Heavy graduation losses have, obviously, been overcome.
“They’ve played a tough schedule and competed very well,” Krystkowiak continued. “To get a top 10 ranking in the country, I think, says a lot for what they’re doing.”
As such, he added, the Utes face quite a challenge.
“We’re going to need to be at the top of our game to be competitive against them,” Krystkowiak said.
After the Oregon State game, Utah center Jason Washburn noted that a lot of the Utes’ current problems are “self-inflicted” injuries.
“We’ve just got to figure out a way to fight it,” he said. “We’ve got to fix what we can fix and get ready for a very tough Oregon team.”
Utes on the Air:
Utah (10-12, 2-8) at No. 19 Oregon (18-5, 7-3)
Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene
Saturday, 6 p.m. MST
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700AM