Utah's improbable run in tournament ends with a thud in semis.
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Las Vegas • The perfect summary to Utah's Cinderella run through the Pac-12 Tournament came early.
It began with Oregon's Damyean Dotson missing an easy jumper. It continued with Jordan Loveridge, Jeremy Olsen and Glen Dean all having chances to clear the rebound. It ended with none of those players clearing the glass. Instead, Jonathan Lloyd beat everyone to the rebound and threw an alley-oop to Waverly Austin, who happily dunked it.
The final score in Friday's semifinal at MGM Grand Arena was 64-45, with the Ducks handily defeating the Utes before a crowd that thinned out midway through the second half due to boredom or apathy. The final, though, was a foregone conclusion after about seven minutes.
"It was difficult to swallow," freshman point guard Brandon Taylor said. "They played great defense, and we didn't do the things we needed to in order to be successful. We thought that we were going to win this, but we didn't play well when we needed to."
After winning two games against USC and California on consecutive nights, Utah simply didn't have the energy to compete with a motivated Oregon team with more athleticism, and especially more bulk and height in the paint. The Ducks were dominant in every phase. They played volleyball when it came to rebounds. They made perimeter shots. They avoided turnovers a seasonlong bugaboo for them. They defended hellaciously, forced miscues from Larry Krystkowiak's team, and turned those into highlight-reel dunks at their own basket.
As a result, Oregon moves on to Saturday's Pac-12 final against a UCLA team that rallied to beat Arizona. The Ducks will then move on to Selection Sunday, where they will await their fate in next week's NCAA Tournament. They are a team that could well be sent to Salt Lake City in a West Regional.
For the Utes, meanwhile, the dream of making an unlikely run to the Big Dance has come to a disappointing halt. Playing a third game in three nights proved to be too much for this bunch. A four-game losing streak is done. The season will likely end with a 15-18 record.
To its credit, Krystkowiak's team showed no sign of quitting. Down 39-22 early in the second-half, Utah gamely clawed its way back into the contest. Glen Dean's ball-fake and 3-pointer trimmed the deficit to 47-39. E.J. Singler, however, outfought everyone to a rebound, made the basket and got the foul. The three-point play pushed the advantage to 50-39, and the Ducks weren't threatened again.
"We were tired, but that's no excuse," freshman forward Dakarai Tucker said. "We came out and played like we did during the regular season. We weren't playing hard, and they got up in us. We had to match their energy and we didn't, and that's on us. They played like they had nothing to lose, and we needed to play like that."
Jarred DuBois had a nightmarish end to his collegiate career. After playing so well in the first two games, he went 0 of 8 from the field and was held scoreless. Jordan Loveridge shot 1 of 10 and scored eight points. Taylor scored 13 to lead Utah. Jason Washburn teary-eyed in the locker room following the loss had 12 points and nine rebounds in his final appearance as a collegian.
Oregon placed four players in double figures. Dotson and Singler had 14 points each.
"I've had special groups that have meant a lot to me," Krystkowiak said. "This team is up there with those groups. They fought. They never quit. They played so hard every moment."
O Utah's season ends at 15-18 after losing in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals Friday night in Las Vegas.
• Oregon takes control in the first seven minutes.
• The Ducks move on to the Pac-12 title game.