The focal point for us, I think, is just keep taking a page out of what we've done the past couple of games and head into Vegas and try to capture a little bit of that energy, feel pretty about the game and continue to compete. —Larry Krystkowiak, coach
SALT LAKE CITY — Talk about a reversal. A year after closing out the regular season with a 46-point loss at Oregon, the Utah Utes pulled off a 72-62 upset of the 19th-ranked Ducks.
“We weren’t going to be denied today,” said senior center Jason Washburn, who led the way with 20 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. “If we keep this mindset and we keep playing like this, we’re going to open some eyes come next week.”
The 10th-seeded Utes (13-17, 5-13) face No. 7 seed USC (14-17, 9-9) in the Pac-12 Tournament Wednesday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The winner will face California in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
“We’re playing good as a team at the right time with a lot of momentum,” Washburn said after expressing hope that every bit of it carries over into the tourney. “We’re feeling pretty good about it.”
“Our real goal is to keep this streak going in Vegas and take it as far as possible, enjoy every moment,” said senior forward Cedric Martin. “It’s great to go into the Pac-12 Tournament on a roll.”
The Utes are certainly playing well. They had four players (Jarred DuBois, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor) score in double-figures in both games of the Oregon State-Oregon sweep. Solid defense and rebounding advantages also proved to be pivotal in each contest.
“The focal point for us, I think, is just keep taking a page out of what we’ve done the past couple of games,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “And head into Vegas and try to capture a little bit of that energy, feel pretty about the game and continue to compete.”
As for the tournament, Krystkowiak said that anything can happen.
“It’s going to be fun basketball,” he said. “Everybody’s pretty much beaten everybody, and it’s really competitive with different styles.”
The final week of the regular season featured a lot of surprising outcomes. In addition to Utah denying Oregon a share of the Pac-12 title, Oregon State prevailed at Colorado, Washington State knocked off both UCLA and USC in Pullman, and Stanford overpowered California in Berkeley.
The big picture, thus, is far from being clear.
“We’ve played everybody. We know what to expect and we know what the players are capable of on every team,” Martin said. “I feel like we’re ready to play any team. Any team that’s given to us on our schedule, we’re ready to play them.”
USC, however, could be a challenging opening draw for Utah. The Trojans defeated the Utes 76-59 in the Huntsman Center on Jan. 12.
Pac-12 Tournament on the air:
No. 10 Utah (13-17, 5-13) vs. No. 7 USC (14-17, 9-9)
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Wednesday, 7:06 p.m. MDT
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: ESPN 700AM