Ute basketball: Utes run, outgun Ducks
Coach Jim Boylen expected a fast-paced, up-and-down game when his Utah Utes played host to Oregon on Wednesday night, so he was hardly surprised to see a seemingly endless series of fast breaks, long passes and floor-length sprints.
Better still, his team was just as prepared for it as he imagined.
The Utes annihilated the short-handed Ducks at their own game, running and gunning to a 95-81 victory in front of 9,290 fans at the Huntsman Center. Tyler Kepkay scored 23 points, Shaun Green added 21 and the Utes made a dozen three-pointers en route to a fifth straight victory - their longest streak in nearly four years - that hinted again that they might actually be better with the tempo turned up.
"Everybody gave me a hard time over the summer," Boylen said. "I'd see people in the grocery store, 'I thought you guys were the Runnin' Utes. I thought you guys were the Runnin' Utes.' And I made a big deal about that when I got the job. We're getting there, how's that? We're getting there."
The 5-1 Utes had not scored so many points since a 98-63 victory over Montana-Western almost exactly four years ago, and beat the Ducks almost the same way they outran Mississippi at the Glenn Wilkes Classic nearly two weeks ago.
While the Utes buried nine three-pointers in the first half to build a 10-point halftime lead against Ole Miss, they nailed eight from long range against the Ducks and piled up a season-high 54 points before halftime to seize a 12-point halftime lead and control of the game.
"We're such a good offensive team, I feel, that it doesn't matter who's taking the shots," Green said. "I think if they're open, anybody on our team can take them, and we'll be successful."
That was certainly the case against the Ducks, who fell to 3-4 and lost their third straight.
Not only did Green and Kepkay erupt in their new roles off the bench, but center Luke Nevill scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and contributed to season-high 61.5 percent shooting.
It helped that Oregon was playing without injured leading scorer Michael Dunigan - the third time this season that the Utes have caught a team without of its best players - but Boylen worried that his smaller, more versatile replacement would cause even greater match-up problems.
Not so much, it turned out.
Freshman guard Garrett Sim came out of nowhere to score 28 points to lead the Ducks, but he had little help. Point guard Tajuan Porter added 11 points and Churchill Odia 10 in his first start, but the Ducks proved to be far outmatched - especially when leading rebounder Joevan Catron left the game midway through the second half with an ankle injury.
It all added up to a satisfying bit of revenge for the Utes, who felt they should have been on the other end of a 75-64 loss to the Ducks last season in Portland, Ore.
"No disrespect to them," Boylen said. "But I've been waiting a year for this game."
* IN SHORT: Tyler Kepkay scores 23 points and the Utes make a dozen three-pointers to outrun Oregon 95-81 at the Huntsman Center for their fifth straight victory.
* KEY STAT: The Utes outrebound the Ducks 41-23.
* KEY MOMENT: Oregon's Kamyron Brown races back to strip Utah's Luka Drca on a fast break, only to have the loose ball float directly to Utah's Jordan Cyphers, trailing the play, for an easy lay-up.
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