Utah basketball: Utes squander lead, fall to Oregon 79-68
The Utes never let Thursday's game against Oregon get out of hand. They simply let it slip away, losing 79-68 to one of the Pac-12's best teams.
After shooting 52.2 percent in the first half, the Utes (5-17, 2-8 Pac-12) made just one field goal over a second-half stretch that spanned nearly 14 minutes, leaving several encouraging signs unrewarded at the Huntsman Center.
Chris Hines had one of his best shooting games of the season, finishing with 20 points, while freshman Kareem Storey had his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.
"I thought the effort was great, and we executed about as well as we have all year collectively," coach Larry Krsytkowiak said. "I thought we did a good job and had a pretty good game plan."
The game plan against Oregon (16-6, 7-3), however, didn't allow for the Utes to make just three shots (including two final-minute 3s by Hines) after Dijon Farr made a 3 with 14:36 left to put the Utes up 49-41.
"The first half was strong, and then the second half started as strong," Hines said. "We just didn't finish it well."
The Utes used runs of 10-0, 9-0 and 11-0 to not only stay with the Ducks, but also lead for much of the game. At halftime, the teams had played to a 36-36 tie, although the Utes at one point led 36-30 with three minutes left in the half.
But the Ducks found the answer to the Utes' hot shooting midway through the second half, turning to a stifling full-court press. It left Storey, who played his best game as a Ute, diving to the floor and fighting for possession.
"We never really got that much pressure the whole year," Storey said.
The Utes' lengthy cold spell cost them a win against a team that last week was in first place in the Pac-12. But there was little regret for the Utes.
On the whole, they embraced the game as one of the best efforts of the season. Even Krystkowiak, who after two losses to UCLA and USC in Los Angeles last week was critical of his team's execution and selfishness, was jovial and even chipper in the immediate aftermath of the loss.
"I'm having a heckuva good time coaching them," he said, "because we are the essence of the team where we're trying to work together on the offensive and defensive facets."
But Saturday revealed something that has been evident all season: Much work remains.
Devoe Joseph led the Ducks with 20 points, but it was the second-half play of Carlos Emory and Tony Woods that sealed the deal for Oregon. Woods and Emory sat out the first half due to a team suspension, but they combined for 25 points.
Emory made the layup with 5:36 remaining that put the Ducks up for good at 60-59. And Woods, the 6-foot-11 center, had two emphatic dunks, including one with a minute left that resulted in a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
"We lost the discipline of getting the guys back when we shot," Krystkowiak said, "and we gave up two or three dunks in transition. I think that really took the air out of the whole arena, ourselves included."
R Kareem Storey becomes the first Ute to have 10 or more assists since Luka Drca in 2008.
• Chris Hines has his second-highest output of the season with 20 points.
• Three Ducks finished in double figures, led by 20 from Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph.
• Utah next plays Oregon State, Saturday at the Huntsman Center.