Oregon forward Olu Ashaolu
The Oregon men nailed down the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament in commanding fashion, blowing the doors off the Utah Utes, 94-48, finishing the season with a 13-5 record in conference and 22-8 record overall.
A 34-2 start to begin the game was all Oregon needed to secure third place in the Pac-12 standings and the number three seed in the upcoming Pac-12 Conference Tournament, as the Ducks steamrolled to a 94-48 win over Utah Saturday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena. Oregon’s 94 points marked a season-high for the team, with their 46-point win setting the season mark for largest margin of victory. Additionally, five Oregon players (Devoe Joseph, Carlos Emory, Garrett Sim, Olu Ashaolu, and E.J. Singler) scored in double-figures for the first time this season, with the team making 15 three-pointers or more for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
In essence, it was a complete and utter dismantling by the Oregon collective.
“We were just making plays for each other and playing unselfishly,” said Sim, who finished with 13 points in his final regular season home game at Matthew Knight Arena. “It seemed like [Utah] was always leaving someone open and we were finding that guy, so we did a nice job of playing unselfish and playing together.”
As a team, the Ducks shot a scorching 65.6 percent from the field in the first half, while limiting the Utes to 5-of-22 shooting (22.7 percent) from the floor, en route to an authoritative 52-14 halftime lead. Senior Devoe Joseph did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 14 of his team-high 21 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the opening stanza.
“The defense was just amazing,” said Joseph of his team scoring 27 unanswered points in the first half. “We were rebounding the ball well -- I think I looked up and it was 22 to 9 at one point -- and we were getting out and getting good looks in transition for open threes, layups, and dunks.”
In fact, the highlight of the game was undoubtedly Olu Ashaolu leaping clear over a Utah defender’s head and slamming home a thunderous jam that drew a foul and sent Matthew Knight Arena crowd and the Oregon bench in to a wild, celebratory frenzy. Ashaolu, who finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds, converted the free throw and wore a big grin on his face as headed to the defensive end, leaving the 10,444 in attendance with mouths still agape.
“If that’s not number one on SportsCenter, I’m not watching it for three weeks,” stated Joseph, beaming as he revisited his teammate’s play.
With their regular season objectives now in the rearview mirror, the Ducks shift their focus to the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament next week in Los Angeles, where the winner of the Colorado-Utah game in the first round of the tournament will face Oregon in a Thursday night quarterfinal matchup. Despite NCAA Tournament hopes still remaining at-large, Joseph and the Ducks have, without question, made a tremendous transformation from the beginning of the season till now; coming together as a team believing it is a force to be reckoned entering tournament time where, in the words of Oregon head coach Dana Altman, the atmosphere is “different.”
“We definitely have the talent, motivation, and desire to get to the postseason,” said Joseph. “You need [those things] to get there and we have that.”
Notes: Oregon junior center Tony Woods missed Saturday’s game versus Utah with a shoulder injury he suffered Thursday night versus Colorado. According to Altman, Woods’ shoulder was still “sore” this afternoon and the team “didn’t want to take any chances tonight.” Woods is expected to be ready to go when the Ducks open play Thursday night in Los Angeles at the Pac-12 Tournament.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney