A lot of things came together. But there was a lot of wand to and a lot of competitive nature. It’s fun. It’s fun to be a part of. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
EUGENE, Ore. — Utah entered its seventh Pac-12 opener with quite a dry spell in rainy Oregon. The Utes had not won a game in Eugene since back-to-back victories in December of 1951. The drought featured seven consecutive setbacks.
There wouldn’t be an eighth.
Justin Bibbins finished with 19 points and made several pivotal shots in the second half as Utah rallied for a 66-56 victory in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
“It’s great. We haven’t done it. It’s a tough place to play,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “A lot of things came into play.”
Sedrick Barefield added 16 points, while David Collette added 11 and Tyler Rawson chipped in 10. Rawson also grabbed nine rebounds and dished out seven assists.
“A lot of things came together. But there was a lot of wand to and a lot of competitive nature,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s fun. It’s fun to be a part of.”
The Utes (9-3, 1-0), who finished the game with just three turnovers, opened the second half with a 12-3 run and took their first lead of the game on a basket by Collette with 17:06 remaining. Although Oregon (10-4, 0-1) managed to pull ahead again, it proved to be short-lived.
Utah answered with a decisive 15-4 burst to stay in front for good. A 3-pointer by Bibbins made it 51-45 with 9:14 to go. The Utes held on the rest of the way to prevail.
“We came in at halftime and we knew we had to do a better job on defense. We made some mental errors in the first half and we corrected them in the second half,” Rawson said. “We did a great job on (Payton) Pritchard. Our team effort, collectively, on the defensive end was what won us the game.”
Pritchard, who entered the leading the Ducks in scoring with 16.3 points per game, was held to seven. He made just 2-of-10 shots from the field.
“We just tried to focus on the defense and the offense opened up,” Bibbins said.
Utah shot 56 percent (14 of 25) in the second half.
“It was just shooting shots. They weren’t going in the first half and they were in in the second half,” Rawson said. “It was as simple as that. We were finding open looks. We did a great job of moving the ball.”
Rawson added that the Utes were “excited to break the curse” in Eugene and called it “a great team win.”
Oregon scored seven straight points and held Utah scoreless for nearly 2 1/2 minutes to open the game. The Ducks led by as many as 13 at one point and held a 31-23 advantage at the break.
Troy Brown scored 12 points and Mikyle McIntosh added 11 to lead the way for Oregon. The Ducks also benefitted from a 23-14 rebounding edge.
Utah, meanwhile, struggled shooting the ball in the first 20 minutes of play. The Utes connected on just 9 of 31 from the field (29 percent). Barefield had a team-high eight points in the opening half. A lack of turnovers — just one, as a matter if fact — helped the Utes remain in striking distance.
Utah is at Oregon State on Sunday.