Five days ago with the team facing home games against Colorado and No. 9 Utah, Oregon senior guard Joseph Young guaranteed that the Ducks would wind up in the NCAA tournament. After beating the Buffaloes on Wednesday, Young and his teammates completed the home sweep with a 69-58 win over the Runnin’ Utes in Eugene, adding a much-needed quality win for their NCAA tournament resume.
Young didn’t shoot particularly well, scoring 14 points on 5-for-16 shooting (1-for-8 3PT), but he had plenty of help from his teammates. Freshman forward Dillon Brooks, who within the course of a year has gone from reclassifying from the Class of 2016 to being one of the Pac-12’s best freshmen, scored 19 points (two of which can be seen in the video above) and grabbed seven rebounds and Elgin Cook added 12 points.
Oregon shot 45.5% from the field on Sunday, but what really won the game for the Ducks was their matchup zone. Head coach Dana Altman made the move in the second half, and the zone successfully slowed down the Runnin’ Utes. Utah shot 36.5% from the field, and outside of the efficient Delon Wright (6-for-9 FG, 4-for-4 FT, 20 points) they struggled mightily from the field.
Brandon Taylor shot 2-for-10 from the field, with all of his shot attempts being three-pointers, and Jordan Loveridge shot 2-for-8. Outside of Wright, the lone player who had success penetrating the Oregon matchup zone, no Utah player scored more than seven points (Loveridge) on the day. Twenty-nine of Utah’s 52 field goal attempts were three-pointers, which is far too high a number when considering both the presence of Jakob Poeltl and Utah’s overall size advantage in the front court.
Oregon was able to use the zone looks to limit the post touches for Utah’s big men, and that resulted in the Ducks picking up their biggest win of the season to date.
Prior to Sunday, Oregon’s two RPI Top 50 wins came against Illinois (in Chicago) and UCLA (at home, and the Bruins were without Tony Parker) and their three KenPom Top 50 wins came against UCLA and Arizona State (twice). Regardless of which ratings system one prefers, there’s no denying the fact that this was a huge victory for Oregon as they look to return to the NCAA tournament.
With three road games and the Pac-12 tournament remaining on their schedule, Oregon may make a prophet out of their senior point guard.
Video credit: Fox Sports 1