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Road woes continue for Utes as Oregon does its damage from distance

Ducks sink 10 of 15 threes in the first half on way to 18-point victory

Oregon’s Will Richardson, right, shoots over Utah’s Alfonso Plummer during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.
AP

EUGENE, Oregon — Although Oregon came into Sunday night’s game against the Utah Utes as one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the country, it hadn’t shot particularly well in its past three games, just a little over 30% overall in losses to Stanford and Oregon State and a come-from-behind win over Colorado.

The Ducks apparently were saving it up for Utah, as they hit the Utes with a barrage of 3-pointers in the first half on their way to an 80-62 victory at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon sank 10 of 15 from downtown in the first half alone and pretty much buried the Utes, jumping out to a 14-point halftime lead. For the game, the Ducks ended up making 50% of their threes, as the Utes tightened up their defense in the second half, but the hole they fell in during the first half was too deep to climb out of.

The loss dropped the Utes to 14-11 on the season and 5-8 in Pac-12 play. With the win, the Ducks moved into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 at 9-4 and 20-6 overall.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak was disappointed in his team’s defense, or lack thereof in the first half, saying, “They had four of them off of offensive rebounds and we had different breakdowns ... guys stepped up and made some, and a couple were ball-watching ones. It was just the (lack of) discipline against an elite team.”

Payton Pritchard, a candidate for All-American and national player of the year honors, led the Ducks with 25 points, making 5 of 9 from 3-point range and 8 of 13 overall, while Will Richardson added 18 points, sinking all four of his 3-point attempts.

“I thought he did a heckuva job, the kid’s an elite player,” Krystkowiak said of Pritchard, adding that he hopes the Utes don’t face the senior in the Pac-12 Tournament again this year. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him, Payton Pritchard is what college basketball stands for.”

The Ducks were raining threes from all over the place in the first half as Pritchard made four and Richardson three as Oregon took a 44-30 lead into halftime.

Krystkowiak lamented how his team couldn’t capitalize on a first-half spurt when the Utes pulled to within seven with six minutes left.

“We had a nice little flow and we were playing hard enough then boom — three straight threes and it went from seven to 16 just like that,” he said.

The Utes also made a nice rally midway through the second half, sparked by reserve guard Alfonso Plummer, who sank a 3 and made a layup off a steal. When Mikael Jantunen scored inside at the 11:15 mark, the Utes pulled within eight at 55-47.

The Utes, however, wouldn’t score on four of their next five possessions as the Ducks went on an 8-1 run to push the lead back to 15 and eventually led by as many as 20.

Overall, Krystkowiak was pleased with his team’s effort, particularly in the second half.

“I’m not going to question our effort,” he said. “That’s an elite team that hasn’t lost a game at home. We’re going to just keep fighting. I was proud of how hard we played — the second half defensively was as good of a half as we’ve played, even though we had some breakdowns.”

Freshman Rylan Jones had a strong effort following a tough night at Oregon State on Thursday as he led the team with 18 points, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range and just one turnover on the night.

“I was proud of his performance tonight — Rylan was one of the guys who brought it,” Krystkowiak said.

Freshman center Branden Carlson had another solid game with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while Timmy Allen added 10 points and six assists, but also had six turnovers.

The Utes return home for a pair of games this week in Salt Lake, Thursday against UCLA at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday against USC at 4 p.m.

GAME NOTES: With the victory, Oregon coach Dana Altman passed UCLA legend John Wooden on the all-time NCAA Division I coaching list with his 665th victory. ... The 12,364-seat Matthew Knight Arena opened in 2011 and is named for Phil Knight’s son who died at age 34 in an accident. ... Attendance was 8,542 Sunday. ... The Ducks defeated the Utes 69-64 when the two teams met in Salt Lake last month. ... Oregon is now 17-2 against the Utes since Utah joined the Pac-12 nine years ago.