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March 16, 2013

Utes hit the wall

After an unlikely four-game win streak, including two conference tournament wins, Utah ran into a buzzsaw in Oregon, who dismantled the Utes 64-45 Friday night.

Post-game, the emotional Utes had trouble reconciling the small but sweet taste of success they got to enjoy with the stinging loss of their singular, but final conference loss Friday.

"It's kind of hard to think about the week overall, still stinging from this one. But I'm really proud of our guys, who continued to get better as the year went on. From a coaching perspective if you can be playing your best basketball at the end of the year, I think that's what we all strive for," said Larry Krystkowiak. "That's what our fellas did. I know it's fun to keep coming back here every day and advance and get a chance to be on ESPN, and all of those things are all good for our program."

Oregon elevated its game Friday in response to what it had seen from Utah during their 2 game conference streak, and talked about needing to come out with energy from the opening tip.

Indeed, that's what Oregon did, setting the tone early and with few exceptions, never really let up. Utah showed some fight and matched Oregon's effort sporadically, but could not sustain it beyond a few minutes at a time.

Utah started the contest missing good, open shots and continued to struggle offensively all night. Eventually, Oregon's tough defensive pressure took its toll on Utah, who responded with a mix of poor shot selection, bad bounces and luck. Utah finished the night shooting 29.4 percent from both the floor, and from three-point range.

Utah's 17 turnovers didn't help matters and gave Oregon 18 points on the night; essentially representing Oregon's win margin, which was 19.

"I don't believe we wore down, I think they're a really good defensive team. They took us out of a lot of stuff we wanted to do," Krystkowiak credited.

Krystkowiak went on to attribute Utah's lack of offense to not being quite at the same level of an Oregon, Arizona or UCLA, citing a team's ability and readiness to play on consecutive nights as criteria for being elite.

"Without some practice time here in the tournament, [it's hard]. When you get to be an elite team, and you're deserving of being in the final four of this conference, and have an opportunity to move on, it means you're able to face different types of teams," Krystkowiak offered. "This is a really good defensive team, and we probably could have used a couple days of practice to prepare. Without an opportunity to do that, it felt like we all got punched in the face."

Utah took several punches, and showed it can take a punch; several for that matter, but had no ability to punch back. True freshman Brandon Taylor jabbed the Ducks, giving the Utes a silver lining, as he led the team with 13 points, while fellow freshman Jordan Loveridge added eight points, five rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal.

Another bright spot for Utah late in the season was Dakari Tucker, who chipped in five points and five rebounds, who provided more of the un-trackable intangibles than any other Ute Friday night.

Senior Jarred DuBois praised his freshmen, citing a confidence and hope for them and the future of Utah Basketball.

"The future here is bright. Not many people come in as a freshman and get to the conference semi-finals," DuBois appraised. "I think we started something special. I think you'll continue to see this program grow, and I don't think this is the last time you'll see these guys at this level."

For DuBois, he'll not have another chance at this level, and unfortunately, didn't go out the way he would have liked.

Oregon had a very set game plan coming into the night, which it executed to perfection, shutting Utah senior Jarred DuBois out completely. Utah's leading scorer heading into the tournament, and in the tournament itself, went 0-8 and accumulated just two assists, but six turnovers.

Jason Washburn got out to a slow start offensively, barely topping his season average to finish with 12 points and nine rebounds to end his collegiate career. Tearful and emotional post-game, Washburn expressed regret at having not done enough for the program, tonight and through his career.

"The only thing I ever wanted for this program was to win. All I ever wanted was for it to get back to the top. Unfortunately, in my era I couldn't bring it there. It's my only regret," Washburn managed. "It's my only regret. I don't regret staying. I know I put in the work and the personal effort. The only regret is that I couldn't win for this program and for Utah. It's the only regret I have."

Utah finishes the season with a 15-18, 5-13 record.


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