LAS VEGAS — For the fifth time in eight years, Oregon has defeated Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament. The latest edition was a 66-54 decision late Thursday in the quarterfinals at T-Mobile Arena.
"Our guys played really hard," said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. "I thought it was quite a defensive game, both ends — first half in particular."
In the end, though, it was poor shooting that took its toll on the Utes. They were just 2 of 23 from 3-point range.
"We've been pretty dependent on the 3-point basket all season long," Krystkowiak said. "A number of those were pretty good looks."
Krystkowiak noted that the Utes needed to make a couple more of those shots to keep it interesting.
"It got away from us at the end," he said.
Utah turned the ball over only seven times and surrendered only two points off miscues in building a 24-18 halftime lead. Donnie Tillman and Jayce Johnson set the tone. Tillman had 12 points at the break, while Johnson had eight rebounds and three blocks.
The performances offset 1-for-10 shooting by the Utes from 3-point range. As the score indicated, it was a defensive battle. Oregon connected on only 28.6 percent of its shots (8 of 29) in the first half. The Ducks missed 10 of their first 11 attempts.
The Utes jumped out to a 9-3 lead and eventually held a 24-16 advantage. They held the Ducks scoreless for more than five minutes during a stretch late in the half.
Oregon coach Dana Altman said his team didn't move the ball well early on and it caused problems, such as taking contested shots.
"I love our defensive effort," Altman explained. "It kept us in the first half and we were able to find a way in the second."
After the intermission, Oregon used a 6-0 run to even the score. Utah, meanwhile, missed its first four shots. Johnson ended the drought with 16:50 left to play.
A swap of scores followed with the Utes holding a 28-26 lead. That’s when Oregon’s Payton Pritchard scored five straight points to put the Ducks in front. Their lead swelled to 45-36 over the next seven minutes.
Utah stopped the slide on a 3-pointer by Sedrick Barefield with 6:03 to go. It ushered in a 7-2 burst that cut the deficit to 47-43. A 3-pointer by Paul White, though, gave Oregon some breathing room at 50-43 with 4:48 to go.
The Ducks (20-12) maintained a lead of at least five points the rest of the way as the Utes fell to 17-14 overall. Although hopeful of an NIT berth, it's likely a longshot at this point.
"It was just one of those games. Shots just weren't going in," Tillman said. "It was a hard-fought battle."
Oregon moves on to face Arizona State in Friday’s semifinals. The second-seeded Sun Devils overpowered No. 7 seed UCLA 83-72 earlier in the evening.
In the other bracket, Washington and Colorado advanced with victories. The top-seeded Huskies defeated USC 78-75 and the fifth-seeded Buffaloes topped fourth-seed Oregon State 73-58.
History hasn’t been kind to Utah when it comes to facing Oregon in the conference tourney.
The Ducks defeated the Utes 88-57 in the 2016 championship game. They knocked them out in the quarterfinals last year (68-66) and in the semifinals in both 2013 (64-45) and 2015 (67-64).46 comments on this story
EXTRA STUFF: Utah guards Barefield and Parker Van Dyke struggled shooting the ball. They were a combined 4 of 23 from the field, including 1 of 16 from beyond the arc . . . Krystkowiak was whistled for a technical foul after swatting a cup off the scorer’s table midway through the second half . . . The announced attendance was 13,012 . . . Johnson made an immediate impact with two blocks in the first three minutes . . . Former Utah football star Steve Smith is being inducted into the Pac-12’s Hall of Honor on Friday.