Defense! Defense! Defense!
Oregon’s defensive effort continued in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament with a 66-54 win over No. 3 seed Utah.
The Ducks will now face Arizona State in the semis after the Devils defeated UCLA 83-72.
The win is Oregon’s sixth straight and in those six games, the opponent hasn’t been able to score over 61 points thanks to a suffocating defense that showed up almost out of nowhere. But where ever it came from, the Ducks aren’t complaining.
Payton Pritchard and Louis King each led Oregon with 20 points apiece. Pritchard also managed five assists and four rebounds.
But once halftime hit, advancing to the next round was a dicey situation at best. Oregon scored just 18 points in the first half. Fortunately for the Ducks, Utah wasn’t lighting it from the field either.
It was 24-18 at the break.
The Utes, who led the conference in scoring and three-point shooting in the regular season, shot 37 percent from the field and just 1-of-10 from long range in that first 20 minutes and 2-of-23 for the game.
Their shooting woes continued in the second half and the Ducks were forcing turnovers and making easy shots. Oregon turned a 24-18 deficit into a 38-32 lead with 10 minutes to go.
With the win, Oregon improved to 21-12 overall and while the Ducks probably need to win the conference tournament to get into the Big Dance, another win over second place ASU would at the very least give the committee something to think about.
The Ducks and Devils will meet Friday night on ESPN around 8:30 pm or 30 minutes after the other semi-final matchup between No. 1 Washington and No. 5 Colorado.
~ Don Smalley