In what may have been one of their best played games, still down two starters, the Utes had a chance to beat the Ducks in Eugene, but some empty possessions at the end, including a questionable double dribble call, doomed them to a 67-64 loss.
Utah came out with a game plan, and it was a pretty deliberate one. Take care of the ball, and shorten the game as much as possible. The Utes did a very good job of that game plan for most of the game. Utah didn’t shoot the lights out, at just 45% on the game, but they didn’t let Oregon get out in transition, and they made sure to keep the game as slow paced as possible.
It was a bit of a concerning start, however, as Branden Carlson left the game for a short period of time with an injury, and it was looking like Utah was going to be extra short handed, but fortunately the big man came back into the game a few minutes later.
It was a back and forth affair for pretty much the entire game, with Oregon really holding the lead for much of it, but it stayed within a few possessions almost the entire time. The Utes did hold a halftime lead of 35-33, which as we know halftime leads mean little to the Utes.
Things got really interesting in the waning moments of the game, as a bit of a three point shootout took place, and Alfonso Plummer kept the Utes in striking distance. Plummer drew a foul on a three on a great pump fake, and hit three free throws to give the Utes a lead, and Timmy Allen put in a few of his own to give the Utes a three point lead. Oregon would counter with a three of their own with two minutes remaining, and it was going to be a tight finish. The Ducks hit another three to take the lead back, and of course, Plummer countered with another of his own.
The Utes had a chance to win the game on the next offensive possession, but Plummer, who faked out the Duck, was getting ready to gather for an open shot, but lost the ball out of bounds. Then after the Ducks only hit one free throw, taking the one point lead, the Utes had another chance. Some unfortunate ball handling, and a very questionable call doomed the Utes. After Pelle Larsson penetrated and lost the ball, Allen came up with it, but couldn’t get a good grasp on the handle and the ball bobbled out near mid court. In an attempt to gain possession of the ball, Allen was called for a double dribble with just seconds remaining. The double dribble will be a major topic of conversation for a time to come. I think the call at the end comes down to if you think Allen possessed the ball to initiate a dribble, and then pick up the ball and attempt to dribble again. That little dribble, almost like a gather dribble, if you will, seems pretty gray area to me — and probably should have been let go (but I’m biased). Regardless, the poor ball handling on that possession I think is the bigger story. Larsson should have made the play. He had a shot in the paint, and he should have took it.
The Utes were led by Plummer’s 17 points, Allen pitched in 15, Larsson and Carlson each had 13. The Utes also played really solid defense in that second half, holding the Ducks to just 41% in the closing half, and did a really nice job switching on defense, and making Oregon work around the perimeter. With almost all the Ducks being the same size, the constant switching really slowed Oregon down, and kept the pace where Utah wanted it. Unfortunately, like many of the games this year for the Utes, it just wasn’t enough.
The game had 16 lead changes in the first half before finishing with just 19 lead changes … the game was also tied nine different times – four of which came in the second half … Utah is now 4-5 in Pac-12 play when leading at the half and 8-5 overall … Utah now moves to 1-7 all-time playing on the road at Oregon since joining the Pac-12.
Utah now returns home to start its remaining homestand inside the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The Utes will first take on UCLA next Thursday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.