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Ducks maintain hold over Runnin' Utes, pull away for 10th straight win over Utah


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SALT LAKE CITY β€” If you've seen one game between Utah and Oregon on the court, you've seen them all.

Coming into Saturday night's matchup at the Huntsman Center, the Runnin' Utes had lost nine straight to the Ducks and hoped to break the losing skid.

Make it 10. Or put it another way, Oregon improved to 22-2 against Utah in Pac-12 play.

Even in a down year for Oregon, which was barely over .500 coming into the game, the stranglehold on Utah remained. The Ducks controlled the game from tipoff and pulled away for a 70-60 win on the road to make it 10 straight wins and the third straight in the Craig Smith era.

For the Utes, it was their first loss in conference play of the season after starting 5-0.

Utah (12-5, 5-1 Pac-12) shot 27% from the field in the first half, committed costly turnovers, and allowed Oregon (9-7, 3-2 Pac-12) to dictate the physicality and the game plan. As a result, Oregon built up a 14-point lead with just over four minutes left to play in the first half and appeared to run away with the lead before Utah got it down to as low as six late in the half.

The Utes used a second-half push, which included a 5-0 run from Lazar Stefanovic, to cut Oregon's lead to 2 points β€” the closest Utah could get all night β€” but the Ducks weathered the storm and pulled away to make it a double-digit lead again with ease.

"I didn't think we were very good tonight," Utah head coach Craig Smith said. "Some of that was Oregon's, but certainly a lot of this stuff was self inflicted. I just thought we looked like we were on our heels, which they can do to you with their length and athleticism and some of their pressing."

The most telling moment of the game, though, was when Utah cut Oregon's lead to five with just over a minute to play. Oregon center N'Faly Dante went to the free-throw line and missed both attempts for what was a good omen for the Utes to cut into the lead.

Utah's players on the line seemed to be stuck in mud and watched as point guard Will Richardson easily fell on the ball for a rebound and Oregon immediately called a timeout. Out of the quick break, Oregon's Quincy Guerrier hit a back-breaking 3-pointer to give the Ducks an 8-point lead. It was a microcosm of the the game played out in seconds.

"I just thought it started from the jump," Utah guard Marco Anthony said. "I mean, I feel like the last minute free throw box out thing when they got the ball back, I think that just summed up the whole night, honestly. Of course, we're gonna learn from it, but we can't really let it keep us going back."

"I think we had some uncharacteristic mistakes," added Lazar Stefanovic. "That box out was one of those. I think we started slow and didn't play together as much early on. Then we got better throughout the game, but it's hard when you have to trail the whole night and then try to get back and try to get back. We were right there a few times, just couldn't get it β€” the lead or a tie."

Utah turned a corner in the second half a bit and improved its shooting percentage to 46% to bring it up to 36% for the game; but even with Oregon having less success shooting from the field in the second half (Oregon shot 38%), Utah couldn't overcome the early deficit.

On a night where every point mattered, Utah failed to collect easy ones from the free-throw line where it went 17-of-25, and the team also finished with 14 turnovers, which led to 20 points the other way for the Ducks.

"We've got to be better than we were tonight and, certainly, we played a lot better basketball throughout the year than we did tonight, but credit to Oregon they made it difficult for us," Smith said.

"We've just got to be smarter. They have elite length and athleticism, and we're driving in there on the offensive end, and sometimes with just no purpose. We've just got to be able to make better decisions and understand what teams are trying to do to us. And then, of course, at the end of the day, would have helped if we had shot the three better."

Utah made just three 3-pointers out of its 21 attempts on the night, two of which came from Stefanovic, who had only 1 point at the end of the first half but finished with 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

Anthony finished with a team-high 15 points and 10 rebounds in the loss, his second straight game with a double-double; and Branden Carlson added 10 points and nine rebounds on a night when Utah was outrebounded by Oregon 41-39.

Dante led the way for the Ducks with 17 points and 12 rebounds in a dominant performance for the big, who was more physical than Carlson and Keba Keita as he helped his team to 30 points in the paint. Richardson added 11 points, four assists and three rebounds in the win.

"I just feel like we came out there and we weren't ourselves," Anthony said. "They're a big, lengthy team β€” one of the biggest teams, I think, in the Pac-12 β€” so, of course, that is a factor; they're a really good team, too. But I just think today we didn't play like how we've been playing these past few games."

"We're learning, we're growing, got to keep getting better, we've gotta keep climbing the ladder," Smith said. "Really disappointed."

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer of University of Utah athletics β€” primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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