Terrible. Awful. Dreadful. Appalling. Atrocious. Those are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of Utah's game against Oregon on Thursday night. The Utes lost their Pac-12 home opener to the Ducks by a score of 77-59. The Utes fell to 1-3 in conference play, and the Ducks rose to 3-1. The Utes were led by Brandon Taylor's 12 points, as he was the only Ute to score in double figures on the night. Oregon had two in double figures, Dillon Brooks had 21 and Casey Benson had 15.
Frankly, I'm not even sure where to begin with this game. Utah opened up the game by allowing Oregon to jump to a quick 8-0 lead, including 2 quick wide open threes, and they were just never able to recover. The Utes kept it close in the first half, only trailing by 12 at half, 46-34, in large part because the Utes had Oregon in the bonus and the double bonus for a large portion of the half forcing Oregon into 16 fouls, plus Jordan Loveridge hit a 3 at the buzzer to cut the lead from 15. We'll get to the free throw shooting in just a second. Even while Utah was playing so poorly, they were still in the game.
Coming out of half, the Utes appeared to be focused and locked in, as they hit their first four shots, and cut the lead to six. Bonam, Taylor, Kuzma and Loveridge all appeared to be ready to get the offense rolling. After that, however, it all just fell apart. Utah went on to miss 20 of their next 26 shots, including 13 straight misses.While Oregon is no doubt a fast team, with some defensive skill, Utah was forcing awful shots, whether it was Kyle Kuzma or Brekkott Chapman, there was a stretch of terrible shots being taken. Utah turned the ball over 15 times on the night, which isn't the worst they've done all season, but these were AAU looking turnovers. Throwing the a pass multiple times too wide of the man that was supposed to receive the ball. Running down the lane and just fumbling the ball. Or at the end of the game, a painful and embarrassing backcourt violation from Dakari Tucker that summed up the night. Seriously, it was bad. Oregon wasn't much better, having similar type of turnovers, as they ended with 15 of their own. Remember the aforementioned free throws? Well, Utah missed 11 of them, going 14-of-25. Ouch. As for 50/50 balls, many rebounds, or what should have been Oregon turnovers, would hit the floor once or twice before a Utah player would react to it, and when they would finally realize it was a live ball, Oregon had recovered and extended the possession or have scored.
Lastly, what really summed up the game for the Utes was Jakob Poeltl going only 1-of-4 on the night from the field, while only having 2 fouls. Oregon had some good size that deterred Poeltl, for sure, but frankly he vanished much of the night, either by his own play, or by his teammates forgetting about him. He was 5-of-7 from the free throw line, so there were hints of aggression, but for stretches of the game you wouldn't even have known he was playing. That's a problem. Utah's got to find a way to get Poeltl the ball, and he's got to be selfish at times and take the shot. He's a very good passer out of the post, but sometimes he over shares the ball, and passes up on good shots. That happened multiple times tonight, not just by Poeltl, but his teammates as well. On multiple possessions, Utah would try and get too cute, and would pass up great looks for much harder looks. Overall, Utah made the game a lot harder tonight than it really should have been. The bad turnovers, the missed free throws, the sloppy play and ball handling all just cumulated in an awful basketball game.
What made it worse was the fact that Oregon left the door open all night long, and if Utah could have played even a little more cleanly, they may have accidentally won the game. This game wasn't really about Oregon running Utah out of the gym, which is what the score reflects, but it's about Utah tripping and falling all over themselves. Hopefully Utah watches this film, burns it, buries it and never speaks of it ever again. They better learn from it though, as Oregon State is coming to town on Sunday, and if Utah comes out with the same effort and execution, things won't get any better.