Utah Struggles To Find Scoring Groove Against The Ducks, Lose First Pac-12 Game

Jan 7, 2023, 7:16 PM
Utah Utes center Branden Carlson (35) goes to the hoop between Oregon Ducks guard Rivaldo Soares (11) and center Kel'el Ware (10) during the game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. (Photo Cred: Spencer Heaps/Deseret News)
(Photo Cred: Spencer Heaps/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY- Utah basketball welcomed in the Oregon Ducks Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center for their annual “Dark Mode” game. After battling it out for 40-minutes in a mostly defensive chess match, the Utes succumbed to the Ducks  70-60. For most of the season, Utah has been a solid shooting team, but Oregon made a point to get after the ball often and early resulting in a poor shooting performance that ultimately cost the Utes the game.

The Utes now stand at 12-5 on the season while recording their first Pac-12 loss (5-1). Utah got a win earlier in the week against Oregon State that marked a milestone for the program who had never started Pac-12 Conference play 5-0.

Utah’s First Half Against The Ducks

Utah earned possession of the first time and didn’t waste much time getting points on the board via Ben Carlson, but that would be the first and last time the Utes would lead in the first half.

By around the 15-minute mark, Utah was 0-7 from the field, but center Branden Carlson would sink a three to help end the dry spell. Still, Oregon was reluctant to give up that easily and the Utes trailed by two, 8-6.

At the 11-minute mark, the Ducks had built up comfortable 10-point lead. Utah continued to battle and cut the lead to eight by the seven-minute mark with a good defensive effort and slightly better shooting.

Utah would end the first half on a high-note, closing the gap on the Ducks to a seven-point lead, 34-27. However, overall shooting for the half was abysmal with Utah only hitting 27% from the field and 9% from the three.

Oregon clearly went all-in on trying to eliminate BC from the first half of the game, but he still managed to lead the team at the half in points with eight, and rebounds with six.

Second Half For The Utes

The Utes came out energized to start the second half improving their field goal shooting to 31%. However, they still trailed by the first media timeout.

Utah really started to come alive when center Keba Keita was inserted into the game. Keita’s size appeared to lend itself to the “bully ball” Oregon wanted to play and the Ducks had a hard time finding and answer to Utah’s answer. Lazar Stefanovic also came through with a couple of key shots that helped inch the Utes back to within range of the Ducks.

Oregon began to pull away again from the Utes around the 10-minute mark increasing their lead back to 10. Fouls and turnovers didn’t help Utah, but certainly aided the Ducks with easy points to get extend their lead.

The Utes came back within seven with under six minutes to play and then within five with under two minutes to play in the second half, 63-58, but never had enough juice in the tank to finish the job.

Utah would end the night shooting 36% from the field, 14% from the three, and 68% from the line. The Runnin’ Utes would also commit 14 turnovers which led to 20 points for Oregon.

Marco Anthony and Stefanovic took the shooting game over for the Utes and led the team with 15 and 13 points respectively, but their efforts unfortunately were not enough to overcome the poor first half start.


Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Struggles To Find Scoring Groove Against The Ducks, Lose First Pac-12 Game