Takeaways: Utes Can’t Capitalize on Strong Start
On Saturday night, the Runnin' Utes held their own against the no. 17 Oregon Ducks at home, but it wasn't quite enough in the end as they fell 79 to 73. Utah held a 10 point lead at halftime before Oregon made adjustments and caught fire early in the second half to take a slim lead that they would keep until the end.
After an abysmal showing against USC last week, this game was a good bounce back for Utah. There are no moral victories, but there are a lot of positives to pull from this one. If a few possessions and shots went Utah's way, they could have been celebrating a top 20 upset. Instead, the young squad dropped to 4-4 on the season.
Here are the takeaways from the game:
First half they showed their potential
A semi-cold first half of shooting by the Ducks opened a door for Utah to step through, and the young Utes took advantage where they could. Timmy Allen led the way with 17 points at the break as the Utes shot 65.4% as a team. A big run early in the second half gave Oregon control, but a strong initial 20 minutes against a top 20 team showed a flash of potential. Oregon looked like they were going to open it up midway through the 2nd half, but Utah fought hard to the end.
An unexpected three-headed attack
Larry Krystkowiak changed up the starting lineup with Pelle Larsson and Riley Battin replacing Alfonso Plummer and Branden Carlson. It’s always a risk making changes with your best shooter—and Plummer did respond with a rough game—but for one half, it caught the Ducks off-guard.
Allen led all Utes with 23 points—only six after halftime—while Mikael Jantunen put together a strong showing of 20 points and six rebounds, and freshman Pelle Larsson added 15 points and five boards of his own. The trio combined for 58 of the Utes' 72 points as the Ducks struggled to slow down the offense from these three. Rylan Jones was held to only two points, but ended with eight assists.
Uncharacteristic turnovers prove too much
A bright spot for this season is that they have been much better at maintaining possession, being one of the better teams at not turning the ball over. Unfortunately, the Oregon half-court trap is their Achilles heel and forced 18 turnovers on the night as the Ducks finished with 10 steals. At the start of the second half, Oregon's defense helped them to a quick 8-2 run to shrink Utah's 10-point lead to just three, before eventually taking the lead.
The Utes have a quick turnaround to prepare for Colorado at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, in a rare Monday afternoon game. They’ll then follow that up on the week two more home games, Thursday against Stanford and Saturday against Cal.