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Oregon overpowers Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, 88-57

LAS VEGAS — Perhaps it was a hangover, a basketball hangover for the 12th-ranked Utah Utes.

Approximately 20 hours after winning a late-night semifinal in overtime over California, they took the floor at the MGM Grand Garden Arena again and dropped an 88-57 decision to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.

The 8th-ranked Ducks (28-6, 14-4), who also won the regular-season crown, flew past the Utes (26-8, 13-5) after breaking from a 13-13 tie with a 25-6 run to close out the first half. The spurt began with 11 straight points.

Trailing 24-12, Utah made only two shots from the field over the final 5:52 of the pivotal half. All five scorers for Oregon — Chris Boucher, Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Jordan Bell — had at least seven points.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged that the difference came in the first half when 30 of Oregon’s 38 points came off of turnovers and offensive rebounds.

“You can’t give any team easy baskets, and the easy ones come in the form of turnovers that you can’t defend and offensive rebounds,” said Krytskowiak, who noted that the Utes got “pummeled” on the glass, giving up nine offensive boards over the first 20 minutes.

“Credit goes to Oregon,” Krystkowiak said. “They were the better team. They deserved to win and we weren’t able to recover from not being ready out of the gates.”

In the second half, the Ducks extended their already sizable lead to 36 points and Utah's nine-game winning streak fell by the wayside.

The loss denied Utah an opportunity to add a Pac-12 title to conference-tournament championships won in the WAC (1995, 1997, 1999) and Mountain West (2004, 2009).

“It's been a goal of ours to try to play in that game,” Krystkowiak said following the 82-78 win over Cal. “I think we've taken a step forward for our program.”

Getting to the Pac-12 final for the first time followed four years featuring a pair of semifinal appearances (2012, 2014) as well as one trip to the quarterfinals (2013) and an opening-round ouster (2011).

This year’s finals marked the first time in Pac-12 history that both teams reached the championship game with overtime wins in the semifinals.

“I think both teams are probably running on fumes here a little bit,” Krystkowiak said prior to the contest. “And I'm pretty pleased that we can represent our league in the final two.”

Oregon, though, flexed its muscle early and often against Utah. The Ducks showed little wear from their 95-89 overtime victory over Arizona in the semifinals Friday evening. They forced the Utes into 13 turnovers in the first half.

With the win, Oregon swept all three games it played against Utah this season. Previous victories include a 77-59 decision in Salt Lake City and a 76-66 triumph in Eugene.

The latest loss was Utah’s most lopsided of the season — surpassing a 90-66 setback to Miami (Florida) at the Puerto Rico Tipoff in November.

“We were tired,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s no excuse, because they were just as tired.”

Krystkowiak compared it to about the 12th round of a heavyweight fight when the game started.

“It’s a bittersweet ending but we got to the championship,” said senior guard Brandon Taylor. “We played some very tough teams and we got past some very good opponents like USC and Cal. So I’m proud of our guys for getting to the championship.”

Jakob Poeltl led the Utes with 13 points and was named to the all-tournament team along with Oregon’s Boucher, Brooks, Cook and Dorsey and Ivan Rabb of California. Cook was named the Most Outstanding Player. Dorsey topped the Ducks with a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds in the finale.

Although Oregon secured the Pac-12’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Utes are also expected to earn a favorable seed when the brackets are revealed Sunday afternoon (3:30 p.m., CBS).

“I’m excited to see what tomorrow holds. Personally, I’ve always been a big believer that everything happens for a reason and I like being humbled before the biggest phase of this season starts,” Krystkowiak said. “Everything up until this point I would trade — I know these guys would trade — for some success starting Thursday or Friday, whenever that might be.

“And if it means getting our butts waxed in the championship game then we’ll take our medicine and hopefully be focused for some practice on Monday,” he added.

Oregon coach Dana Altman praised the Utes for being a good team and said “it was just our night.”

The Utes will gather at the Huntsman basketball facility to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show.


Twitter: @DirkFacer