LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – For the third straight year, the Utes earned a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tourmament, but for the third straight year, Utah dropped its opening game.
Utah made just 2 of 23 three-pointers in a 66-54 loss to Oregon, most likely ending the Utes season.
Donnie Tillman led the Utes with 18 points, but their senior backcourt of Sedrick Barefield and Parker Van Dyke combined to miss their first 11 three-point attempts, and scored just five and four points respectively.
“Just a slow start,” Tillman said. “It was just one of those games. Shots just weren’t going in. It was a hard-fought battle. Second half just needed to be consistently bring the effort, bring the intensity defensively. A number of great looks, it just wasn’t falling.”
Payton Pritchard and Louis King each scored 20 points for the Ducks, who also beat Utah in the Pac-12 quarterfinals last year.
“Our guys played really hard. I thought it was quite a defensive game, both ends, first half in particular,” head coach Larry Krystkowiak said.. “Two for 23 from three, and we’ve been pretty dependent on the three-point basket all season long. Number of those were good looks.”
Utah raced out to an 8-point lead in the first half, but had a stretch of more than six minutes without a field goal and shot 8 for 21 in the first half. Barefield was limited to eight minutes after picking up two fouls.
Oregon had a scoreless drought of 5 1/2 minutes and went 8 for 29 in the first half, but made 17 of 28 shots in the second half, outscoring the Utes, 48-30.
Francis Okoro tied a Pac-12 Tournament record with 6 blocked shots for the Ducks.
“I think Oregon’s defense needs a lot of credit,” Krystkowiak said. “They’ve been playing great. It was real physical at the point of attack. We did a decent job, 12 turnovers or less was our goal. We need to make some of those threes to keep it interesting. It got away from us at the end.”
Timmy Allen was the only other Utah player in double figures with 14 points. Jayce Johnson returned from missing the last two games wtih an ankle injury to score 9 points and pull down 12 rebounds.
Krystkowiak said his team would not pursue a postseason tournament like the CIT or CBI, so barring an unlikely invite from the NIT, Utah’s season comes to a end with a record of 17-14.