EUGENE, Ore. (ABC4 Sports) – After relying on defense through its first 11 games, Utah finally found the shooting touch that coach Larry Krystkowiak knew it would. And his Utes picked the perfect time get hot.
Justin Bibbins scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half to lead Utah to a 66-56 victory over Oregon on Friday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
The Utes were 14 of 25 from the field in the second half after shooting just 29 percent (9 of 31) before the break.
“That was the difference in both halves, as simple as it sounds, when the shots go in,” Krystkowiak said. “Our defense has carried us to getting eight (nonconference) wins.
“We keep talking to them that the rim’s going to open up, but defense has got to be a staple for our program, and it was a nice game plan. Our guys are locked in.”
Sedrick Barefield added 16 points for the Utes (9-3), who snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Ducks. It was Utah’s first road win in a conference opener since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
David Collette had 11 points, while Tyler Rawson had 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Utes.
Troy Brown scored 16 points to lead Oregon (10-4), and MiKyle McIntosh added 14 before fouling out. Elijah Brown had 12 points.
Oregon coach Dana Altman noted Utah’s 16-4 edge in points off turnovers and its 11-3 margin in second-chance points as the difference in the game.
“Those are two key stats, so I’m very disappointed in how we performed,” Altman said. “I always look at those as indicators of who’s determined and who’s getting things done with their activity, and we obviously didn’t get much done in those two areas.”
Oregon, which had won five in a row, had its 25-game home winning streak against conference teams snapped. The last Pac-12 team to beat the Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena had been Arizona on Jan. 8, 2015.
Utah outscored the Ducks 43-25 in the second half behind Bibbins, who was 4 of 4 from 3-point range after the break. The Utes finished with just three turnovers as neither team scored a fast-break point.
“We did a terrific job of not turning the ball over against this team,” Krystkowiak said, “and that’s a big part of it.”
Utah came in allowing 67.9 points per game, best in the Pac-12, and held the Ducks to nearly 30 points below their season average. Oregon made just one of its last seven shots, all from 3-point range.
“Really bad selection, and we took really bad ones,” Altman said. “We took some shots there that definitely weren’t what we wanted to take.
“Again, I know we had problems offensively, but that game was decided on the defensive end the second half.”
After being held to a season-low 23 points in the first half, Utah scored the first eight points of the second half to tie at 31-31. The Utes went ahead to stay with 10 1/2 minutes left and scored the last nine points of the game.
“I thought our guys did a terrific job of drawing and kicking and passing up a good shot to get a great one,” Krystkowiak said. “When they go in, it’s a fun way to play.”
Utah next plays at Oregon State on Sunday.