The Utah Utes need a strong win to add to their short resume for the NCAA Tournament, and they’ll have their best chance of the season on Thursday night.
The Utah Utes need a strong win to add to their short resume for the NCAA Tournament, and they’ll have their best chance of the season on Thursday night. No. 10 Oregon (18-2, 7-0 Pac-12) will face the Utes (14-5, 5-2 Pac-12) for the first of two games in regular season conference play at the Huntsman Center.
Ducks star Dillon Brooks is averaging 13.4 points, 3.1 assists, and 2.4 rebounds per game this last season, down from 16.7/3.1/5.4 in 2015-16. His status for the game is unknown, but he is in a walking boot after injuring his ankle against Cal last week.
Brooks said "I think I broke my foot" according to those on the floor.
— Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley) January 20, 2017
With or without Brooks, the Ducks are a very balanced offensive team, with five players averaging between 11 and 13.4 points per game. Cumulatively, the team has the fifth-best scoring offense in the conference with 79.9 points per game (Utah is second with 81.6).
Utah assistant coach Andy Hill said they’re planning on Brooks playing, but either way, they have a lot of weapons:
Oregon’s best strength is its defense, which is holding opponents to 62.7 ppg, the best in the Pac-12. To put that in perspective, the Utes were held to just 55 points at Arizona, who has a similar defensive caliber. Against UCLA and USC, who are both in the bottom half of the league defensively, the Utes had no problem scoring the ball.
Hill discussed attacking the stifling Ducks defense:
The Utes will likely be without David Collette, who missed the team’s trip to Washington and Washington State last week while undergoing concussion protocol. Larry Krystowiak wouldn’t divulge details of his absence, but did mention that Collette would be out of practice “for a while.”
Despite having a record of success against top teams, Utah has struggled with Oregon for years, with a seven-game losing streak dating back to 2012-13. The last win was a 72-62 game at the Huntsman Center shortly before the Pac-12 tournament.
Hill addressed why the Ducks have had the Utes number in recent seasons:
If they want to get to the NCAA Tournament, the Utes need another small handful of strong wins, and with the Pac-12 being weak relative to other power conferences, the chances are few.
Asked if the team has extra focus on this game, Krystkowiak said the team approaches every game the same, but they always want big wins:
Tipoff on Thursday night will be at 8:30 p.m. Pregame coverage starts on ESPN 700 at 6:30. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
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