LAS VEGAS - Oregon and Utah will meet in the Pac-12 Tournament for the fifth time in seven years on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena.
The Ducks will look to stay perfect against the Utes in the conference tournament during the second straight quarterfinal meeting between the two schools.
Oregon beat Utah 64-45 in the 2013 semifinals en route to winning the championship. Two years later, the Ducks won 67-64 in the semifinals on a buzzer-beater from Joe Young.
The Ducks beat the Utes 88-57 in the 2016 title game and defeated Utah 68-66 last season.
Like last year, Oregon is the No. 6 seed picked to beat the third-seeded Utes as a 4.5-point morning favorite in local sports books. The Ducks won 78-72 at Utah on Jan. 31 in the only meeting this season between the two schools.
The Utes (17-13) have been off for five days while Oregon (20-12) has about 22 hours of rest following a 84-51 first-round win over Washington State on Wednesday.
“They were third in the conference so obviously we are the underdog,” said UO guard Ehab Amin, who led the Ducks with 17 points against WSU. “They’re a really good team, really good shooting team. They have a lot of shooters that can get hot. A couple players that can get 20-plus points. We are just going to get together and execute our game plan.”
Utah has won two straight and led the conference with a 46.8 shooting percentage, including 37.8 on 3-pointers. Oregon leads the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense (40.9) and 3-point percentage defense (30.2).
“Offensively, they are a very gifted team,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “Shooting a lot of 3’s, which will really stretch us out.”
Utah has averaged 82.5 points in its past four games. Oregon has held five straight opponents to fewer than 62 points for the first time since 1984-85.
“Their length on the floor is really difficult to score on, as they have shown against the last five opponents they have played,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said after the Cougars shot 30.8 percent to become the fifth straight team to shoot 42 percent or worse against the Ducks. “When you combine that on the strength inside, the outside scoring, they are a tough team.”
Oregon is starting four players at 6-foot-9 - Louis King, Paul White, Francis Okoro, and Kenny Wooten - with point guard Payton Pritchard.
“You have three shot blockers, one who is a phenomenal shot blocker, and when you do that, even with Pritchard on the floor, you have a chance to switch a lot on defense which forces teams out of their offense and forces them into a one-on-one game,” Kent said. “And then you’re playing one-one-one against an athletic 6-9 guy. Well, you are not going to drive them because the shot blocker is sitting back there so they force you into a lot of one-on-one shots.
“So when you look at their point totals, I think Washington had 47 and Arizona State had 51 and now this game, they are playing outstanding defense. The press is another component that slows you down and keeps you in a hurry-up mode once you get it over half-court because they do a good job with the press to take some seconds off the shot clock. And you’re hurrying up against a very athletic team with some terrific shot blockers.”
Guard Sedrick Barefield leads the Utes with 17.2 points per game followed by forwards Timmy Allen at 12.2 and Donnie Tillman with 10.3. Seven-foot center Jayce Johnson averages 7.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.