Story by: Dylan Reubenking
The Oregon men’s basketball team grinded out their fifth consecutive victory with a 67-64 nailbiter over Utah on Saturday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
The Ducks got off to a sloppy start on both sides of the ball, giving up easy baskets in the paint and allowing the Utes to find a rhythm offensively. Eugene Omoruyi, who did not score a point in the Ducks’ win over the Utes in Salt Lake City on Jan. 9, scored 11 points in the first half. Alfonso Plummer got hot for the Utes, hitting three three-pointers, but the Ducks continued to exchange punches and never trailed by more than 4 in the first half. Utah led 35-33 at the half.
Eric Williams Jr. returned from a knee injury for just his second game since Jan. 23 and played 24 minutes, giving the Ducks a boost on both sides of the ball. He helped bring an intensity to the defense that had been lacking for much of the game. The Ducks allowed just one three-point field goal in the second half and forced nine Utes turnovers. Chris Duarte and LJ Figueroa hit clutch three-pointers and free throws in the waning minutes. The Ducks forced two critical turnovers in the final 30 seconds to secure the victory.
Oregon has defeated Utah for the 19th time since 2011, the third most by any major conference team against an opponent. The win secured the Ducks’ 11th straight winning season and Coach Dana Altman’s 24th straight winning season.
With USC’s loss Saturday to Arizona, the Ducks remain one and a half games behind the Trojans and the UCLA Bruins for first place in the Pac-12. The Ducks will have a chance to inch closer to first place as they will face the Trojans Monday night in Los Angeles.