Ducks nearly collapse but finish road trip undefeated

Salt Lake City has not been kind to the Ducks in 2021. In 2022, the Ducks almost wrote the same script as the previous years. Oregon took down Utah 80-77 in an extremely close matchup, which wasn’t expected in the last four minutes of the contest.

If you watched the game live, you could take this opportunity to exhale finally. With 5:26 left in the game, Oregon’s Quincy Guerrier hit a three-pointer to give the Ducks a 71-57 lead. Utah closed the game on a 20-9 run from that point on. At one point, it was a 14-3 run to cut the lead down to five. Oregon’s inability to string together multiple good possessions in a row led to their almost demise before Oregon’s Jacob Young hit a layup off a long outlet pass to put the Ducks up by their final margin of victory, three.

The game was not always as tight-knit as the closing minutes, as Oregon entered halftime with a 12-point lead, getting the lead as high as 15. The problems began as Oregon let their foot off the gas, thinking the severely outmanned and out-talented Utah team would simply rollover. Before Utah’s win over Oregon State earlier this week, Utah had lost 10 straight games, dating back to December.

The lack of intensity for Oregon caused that dreaded 20-9 run to accelerate in the closing minutes. After Guerrier’s three, the Ducks seemingly had an insurmountable gap and could cruise to victory. Utah had other ideas, getting quality looks, forcing Oregon to run a small lineup, and wreaking havoc in the passing lanes. Utah employed a press defense in the half-court, heading Oregon on pick and rolls and forcing the ball-handler to pick up his dribble.

The Ducks implemented a small lineup because of Utah’s press and three-point shooting, using Guerrier at the center position. N’Faly Dante and Franck Kepnang played nine total minutes in the second half, as neither could handle the ball or performed well enough offensively to keep them in the lineup.

Oregon only turned the ball over six times in the second half, but four of them came in the game’s final five minutes. De’Vion Harmon had a near-fatal travel at the end of the game, but the Ducks persevered.

In Oregon’s recent success, winning nine of their last 10 games, they have rarely been down to the wire as they were against Utah. It became clear that Oregon only had two trustworthy guards in Young and Will Richardson. Even then, the game became too close.

Overshadowed in this close game was Richardson’s electric offensive performance, netting 25 points and five assists. Richardson’s offense was Oregon’s only spark plug, and his continued impressive shooting was on display once again, going 5-for-7 from the perimeter.

Despite the underwhelming performance, Oregon eeked out a victory. They now move to 8-3 in conference play, holding third place all to themselves. Things could certainly be worse for the Ducks, but for now, they find themselves on the left side of the wins/loss column when needed.

Oregon is off for five days until they host Stanford on Thursday at 6 PM PST.

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