Coming into this weekend's road swing through Oregon, Utah was looking for at the very least a split to help maintain their Pac-12 title hopes. After a losing in Corvallis, in only what can be described as the worst way possible, Utah has a tough challenge ahead of them on Sunday of they want to return to Salt Lake City with the split.
Last time Utah and Oregon met, the Ducks buried Utah 77-59 at the Huntsman Center. Oregon looked like they were in another class, racing out to an eight point lead and never looking back. Jakob Poeltl had one of his worst games this season, making only one field goal and finishing with a total of seven points. Oregon forward Dillon Brooks gave Utah fits all night finishing with 21 points four rebounds and five assists.
The good news for Utah, is that performance came during the midst of a terrible 1-3 start to Pac-12 play. Since that loss in the Huntsman Center, Utah is 5-1, the only loss coming on Thursday against the Beavers. Poeltl has played like a monster during that six game stretch, having scored over twenty points in four straight games. Kyle Kuzma has also really stepped up his game as of late serving as a nice complimentary post player to Poeltl.
On the flip side, Oregon is first in the Pac-12 with an 8-2 record in conference play and ranked no. 16 in the country. Since the last time these two teams have met, Oregon has also gone 5-1, their only loss coming against Colorado in Boulder. Oregon is playing the best basketball of anyone in the Pac-12 this season and especially as of late, sweeping Arizona and Arizona State on the road and finishing off a 20 point dusting of Colorado on Thursday.
Forwards Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook lead a versatile Duck team that can attack in a myriad of ways. It's true Oregon doesn't have a big man in the middle to counter Jakob Poeltl, but they don't need to, as was evidenced in the last meeting. Oregon will spread you out and make the opposing team's big men guard in space. Oregon is more athletic than most teams in the country, giving them the advantage in many one on one matchups. Oregon is a good shooting team as well and can shoot over zone defense.
Matthew Knight arena will be a tough place to play. Oregon has not lost at home in over a year. Utah will need an especially inspired effort to come out with a win on Sunday. Can it be done? Absolutely. The Pac-12 is a crazy conference where anything can happen on any given day. Utah will need a big day from the backcourt both offensively and defensively. Utah's guard play has been questionable at time this season and Lorenzo Bonam and Brandon Taylor will need to step up, limiting turnovers and contributing with perimeter scoring to keep the offense balanced. On defense, Utah needs to limit Oregon in transition and make Dillon Brooks work for his looks. This one appears to be a tough matchup. Oregon has not taken any steps backward since the last meeting and this time they get Utah at home.
The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 2pm MT.