Oregon embarrasses Utah in regular season finale
By Jesse Wendel
EUGENE, Ore. – Some point soon, the talk of rebuilding a basketball program in Eugene has to end. As the Oregon men’s basketball team heads into the inaugural Pac-12 tournament, rebuilding is the last thing the Ducks have to worry about. After humiliating Utah at home Saturday their focus is simple: closing out the season on a roll, and taking momentum into the NCAA tournament.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak probably wishes the rebuilding process were ongoing. Late in the first half of Saturday’s regular season finale between the two teams, Oregon held a commanding 32-2 lead and showed no signs of letting up. It’s been a rough first Pac-12 season for Krystkowiak’s Utes (6-24, 3-15), but a 30-point deficit on the road has to qualify as a low point. Led by senior Devoe Joseph’s 21 points, the Ducks (22-8, 13-5) won going away, routing the Utes 94-48.
Oregon had to be thinking ahead: to a first round bye at the Pac-12 tourney, and to a deep run at the Staples Center next weekend to cement their case in the March Madness field of 64. Led by seniors Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim, and buoyed by a raucous Matthew Knight Arena crowd, the Ducks fired off a barrage of threes in the first half and never looked back. Hitting 66 percent of their threes in the first 20 minutes, they led 52-14 and the only question was whether they would break the century mark.
With little used freshman guard Brett Kingma and walk-on Nic Lucenti grabbing a fair share of mop-up minutes, the Ducks never quite crossed that barrier. But, lost in the barrage of threes and highlight reel dunks from the likes of Olu Ashaolu was the fact that, for the first time in recent memory, the Ducks boast a solid complement of starters and bench talent. Whether its sharpshooter Kingma or forward Tyrone Nared, the Ducks have a variety of talent. The importance of a deep, well-used bench can’t be understated during the post-season, and Oregon head coach Dana Altman knows it. He made it a point to rest his regulars down the stretch in this one.
Utah’s Krystkowiak, trying to find any ray of light, had to be pleased at least with the play of one of his own players, center Jason Washburn. The junior took advantage of the absence of the injured Tony Woods to score 26. Unfortunately for Utah, if they make it past a tough Colorado squad Wednesday night in the opening round of the Pacific Life Pac-12 tourney, they face this fired-up, hungry Oregon team all over again.
Putting these two squads in contrast exposes a pretty simple fact: Utah is rebuilding, trying to adjust to life in the Pac-12; on the other hand, Oregon is ready for a break-out post-season, and letting everyone know they are done rebuilding.