Pritchard helps No. 4 Oregon top Utah 69-64
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Oregon’s Payton Pritchard had cotton wadding up his nose to stop the bleeding and Utah was swarming him every time he touched the ball down the stretch.
Someone else was going to have to score to win the game for the fourth-ranked Ducks.
“No championship team is made of just one person. Guys need to step up and the big guys are just growing and finished strong,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard played the final few minutes with the cotton swabs in his nose after leaving the game for a minute to deal with a bloody nose.
Shakur Juiston and Chandler Lawson each made a pair of layups in a 8-2 run after Utah took its final lead to clinch the game for Oregon.
“The Utes were just pressuring me so high and once we got by their defenders there’s no help, so we got lobs and dump-downs and the big guys scored,” said Pritchard, who scored 19 points while Will Richardson and Chris Duarte each had 14 to help Oregon outlast Utah 69-64 on Saturday afternoon.
Pritchard drew most of the defensive attention as usual so the Ducks ended up moving the ball to open post players (12-3, 1-1 Pac-12), part of Oregon’s 42-22 advantage on points in the paint.
“The Utah big men were helping and hedging hard and then they had to rotate. We know the ball can beat the defense rotating, so we got good shots,” said Richardson, adding that Coach Dana Altman wanted layups, not jumpers.
Both Gach scored a career-high 24 points and Timmy Allen had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Utes (10-4, 1-1), who made a stunning comeback but didn’t have enough fuel to finish it off.
“I really wanted to be aggressive. One of my biggest goals is to not just settle and to try and get to the rim,” Gach said.
Allen scored six points in a 12-0 run that ended when Allen made a layup with 7:29 to play to make it 58-56 for Utah. During the burst, Allen was flagrantly fouled by Juiston and collided full-speed with Pritchard, which gave the Oregon guard a bloody nose.
Richardson’s 3 gave Oregon its largest lead of the game at 56-46 and capped an 8-2 run in which Pritchard also found his range with a pair of jumpers.
Utah has lost two of three — both to ranked teams — after a five-game win streak.
“We missed a lot of open shots. We got what we wanted and we just missed them,” Utah guard Rylan Jones said. The Utes only made one of their last eight field goal attempts.
Oregon returned to its winning ways after dropping to 0-9 against Colorado in Boulder on Thursday.
“Points in the paint were the difference,” Altman said. “We have a long way to go, but we have everybody back healthy and we’re getting better.”
The Ducks trailed 24-23, before they started finding lanes to the basket in a late first half run. All of Oregon’s final nine baskets of the half were dunks or layups, including Pritchard’s layup to beat the horn and give the Ducks a 36-31 lead at the break.
Utah is 1-7 against the Ducks when they are ranked.
A big boost in Utah’s comeback was a rare eight-point possession by the Utes when they trailed 56-50. Allen made the first of two free throws and then the Utes rebounded his miss on the second. Mikael Jantunen drained a 3-pointer at the same time a flagrant-1 foul was called on Juiston. Allen made both free throws and then Utah got the ball out of bounds. Gach missed a shot but Allen rebounded and made a layup. Utah scored eight points in 22 seconds without Oregon ever getting the ball.
“We kept our composure even when they made that (eight-point) play in one possession. That was crazy!” Pritchard said.
After losing to Colorado and squeaking out this win, Oregon will surely drop from its current No. 4 ranking, which is tied for the highest all-time with 2016-17 Ducks’ team that reached the 2017 Final Four.
Oregon: After losing its Pac-12 opener to Colorado, Oregon leaned on its defense and athleticism to turn back the Utes. Pritchard is the go-to guy but he showed enough maturity to find the open men down the stretch. The Ducks need to limit their fouls to win games like this one without a tight finish.
Utah: In previous losses, the Utes couldn’t handle Oregon’s press but in this one the young Utes took care of the ball and, instead, couldn’t shoot. The Utes battled all night but couldn’t overcome their 35.6% shooting. Allen went 6-of-18 and the Utes couldn’t find easy shots when the Ducks turned up the defensive pressure on their stars.
Oregon: hosts Arizona on Thursday.
Utah: visits Colorado on Jan. 12.