Utah takes its best shot at No. 4 Oregon, but Ducks hang on for a 69-64 victory

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Rylan Jones (15) pulls down the rebound as the University of Utah basketball team hosts No. 4 Oregon, Jan. 4, 2020, at the Huntsman Center.

Pick something from Saturday afternoon to harp on, there are options.

The University of Utah got plenty of open looks against Oregon’s matchup zone in the first half, but couldn’t knock down shots. The Utes left too many points at the foul line. The final offensive sequence may have produced a decent shot, but still left something to be desired.

All of these things were factors for an increasingly-capable, albeit young Utes team against an older, experienced, Final Four-caliber Ducks outfit. Whichever one you pick, the bottom line is clear. No. 4 Oregon’s 69-64 win in front of 13,104 at the Huntsman Center was a lost opportunity for the Utes.

“There were a lot of positive things our team did,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Oregon’s always been a positive for us with turnovers, and if you would’ve told me we would’ve turned it over seven times in that game I would have definitely hit the deal button.

“To beat an elite team like that, you’ve got to hit more open shots.”

Whatever shortcomings there were, this game was still Utah’s for the taking as the clock began fading. The Utes (10-4, 1-1 Pac-12) trailed just 61-60 headed for the under-4 media timeout, but Oregon (12-3, 1-1) went on a rush, scoring on three consecutive possessions, all at the rim. The last of those three possessions saw Shakur Juiston score on a layup to give the Ducks a 67-62 lead with 2:56 left.

On a day it yielded 42 points in the paint, shot 9-for-30 from 3-point range, and 13-for-20 from the line, the Utes still trailed by just three late. Out of a timeout, the ball went to Timmy Allen on the left wing. Not the Utes’ top option from the perimeter, Allen had a fair look from there, but the shot was off the front of the rim with 15 seconds left.

Allen had 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, while Both Gach led all scorers with 24 points on 9-for-20 shooting.

Throwing the ball in after getting fouled, Oregon broke the Utah pressure as Chris Duarte, last season’s NJCAA National Player of the Year, put home a dunk for the final margin.

“They guarded our little action and we just got the ball iso,” said freshman point guard Rylan Jones, who finished with six points and four assists, but also four turnovers. “Timmy shot a good shot and when he shot it, I thought he made it. It looked good. We missed a lot of open shots tonight. We got anything we wanted, and we just missed them.”

“We’ve got a handful of specials to try and get a 3-point shot,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s what we were trying to do and Oregon defended it properly. I can’t fault Timmy, it was open. He’s not our top 3-point shooter, but he did make three the other day in a game and I don’t know that we were going to get a better look.”

Down five with the ball inside 8:00 to play, Mikael Jantunen hit a 3-pointer from straightaway, plus there was a flagrant one foul away from the ball on Juiston. Allen hit both free throws to tie the game at 56-56 with 7:35 to play.

Momentum and the lead changed hands for a three-minute stretch afterward.

The lead changed hands eight times in the game, but Utah led for a total of only 2:06.


• Utah took momentary second-half leads twice, but couldn’t hold in falling to No. 4 Oregon, 69-64.

• The Utes shot just 35.6 percent from the field, 30 percent from 3-point range and 65 percent from the foul line.

• National Player of the Year candidate Payton Pritchard led the Ducks with 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting.