In a season where schedules should not be written in ink due to cancellations and postponements, No. 17 Oregon and host Utah instead are facing a rarity: playing sooner than scheduled.
The Ducks and Utes will take the court Saturday evening rather than Sunday afternoon, among several Pac-12 schedule changes involving multiple schools due to COVID-19.
That gives the Ducks one fewer day to recover from their only conference loss, a 79-72 setback to the host Colorado Buffaloes on Thursday.
Oregon (8-2, 3-1 Pac-12) led for about 10 minutes in the first half, at the most by five points on a 3-pointer and layup by Chris Duarte with 4:21 before intermission. By halftime, the Ducks were down by two and rarely pulled within striking distance in the second half.
“We’re in this together and we all have our share of blame,” Ducks coach Dana Altman said afterward. “Ball movement was really poor. We had some bad turnovers.”
Oregon also struggled on the boards. While the Ducks entered the game with a rebound margin of plus-7 1/2, the Buffaloes out-boarded them 40-28.
Duarte scored five straight points, including a 3-pointer, to get the Ducks within four with about two minutes left in the game, but a goaltending call pushed the lead back to six and ended the comeback hopes.
Duarte scored a game-high 27 points on 10 of 17 shooting, including 3 of 6 from long range. Eugene Omoruyi added 18 points. Omoruyi leads the team at 18.6 points per game, neck-and-neck with Duarte at 17.7 points per game.
Scoring looms as Oregon’s biggest advantage Saturday. The Ducks are averaging 76.9 points vs. 69.3 for Utah, and Oregon is shooting 47.5 percent from the field to Utah’s 41.9 percent.
The Utes are coming off their third postponement or cancellation this season, brought about when Oregon State was unable to make a road trip to Colorado and Utah.
In fact, in an attempt to clear room at the end of the season for possible makeup games, the Pac-12 has moved up Colorado’s planned season-ending visit to Utah from March 6 to Monday, likely explaining moving Sunday’s Ducks-Utes game to Saturday.
“I think the season is going to be a ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario, and you have to have a mindset that you are not playing too many games in a row,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said in the wake of back-to-back losses in Los Angeles to UCLA and USC last week.
The Utes (4-3, 1-2) have been relying on their defense, allowing 63.9 points per game, among the top 50 in the nation. Their field goal defense, including on 3-pointers, is comparable to Oregon’s.
“Our guys are buying into some things defensively, and our offense is behind our defense right now. So that is going to be a challenge for us,” Krystkowiak said.
“I told them, ‘We are going to put some time into offense, and we better not forget how important defense is.'”
Alfonso Plummer (14.7 points per game) and Timmy Allen (14.3) lead Utah’s scorers.
–Field Level Media