Behind a 19-2 run in the second half, Oregon ended its three game losing streak by defeating the Utah Utes 73-64. Oregon took its first lead midway through the second half 44-43 and didn’t relinquish the lead from then on.
The Ducks dominated the glass all game, out rebounding Utah 41-19. Oregon also held a 24-6 advantage in second chance points and had as many offensive rebounds as Utah had total rebounds. Oregon shot 48 percent in the second half, 18 percent higher than their total in the first period, behind the insertion of a small lineup for most of the half.
After being down 30-22 at halftime, Oregon scored 51 points in the second and ended the game with 15 straight free throws. Three Ducks finished in double figures scoring, led by E.J. Singler‘s game high 21 points. Head coach Dana Altman said the tipping point to give the Ducks momentum was Singler’s three point basket to cut Utah’s lead to one 32-31.
From there, senior forward Arsalan Kazemi gave the Ducks its first lead of the second half on a free throw. Coach Altman said Kazemi’s performance in the second half was as good of a half as he’s had all season.
“Second half he was unbelievable – blocking shots, rebounding, starting our break and making plays. He was the difference in the game.” Altman said.
Kazemi finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds, and said “little plays, hustle plays, that’s what gets the team going. And we had a lot of those plays tonight, especially in the second half.”
Freshman Damyean Dotson said while Kazemi is usually quiet, he was screaming at his teammates during halftime, imploring them to do better in the second half. That is a sight Dotson had never seen in his teammate before, and that it fired up the team.
Dotson was a driving force towards the Ducks’ second half play, scoring 13 points in the second half. Before the game, Dotson was shown a video of his play earlier in the season, and knew he had to step up, be more aggressive and take over the game.
“It wasn’t me just thinking I had to take over, it was me knowing I had to take over.” Dotson said. “I knew I had to step up in the second half because I haven’t been doing that lately.” On his mindset when taking over the game Dotson said he knew he just had to score. “I was just thinking catch and shoot I guess. Score, you gotta score. This is what you came here for.”
Dotson has struggled without his backcourt mate Dominic Artis, scoring under double digits in the four previous games Artis had missed. But Dotson thought this game was a break-though.
“I feel like this was a break in game because it was the middle of the season. The beginning of the season I was doing good. All the staff was talking to me like we need you, you have to come out. They inspired me this game.”
Utah shot 41 percent in the second half, 16 percent lower than its total in the first half. In the first half the duo of Utah’s Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn outscored Oregon’s whole team 24-22. But Loveridge was shutout in the second half, scoring 0 points on 0-7 shooting. Head coach Dana Altman used a press in the second half and said it changed the rhythm of the game.
Altman tried to tell his team that they were 18-2 before earlier in the season for a reason, and that they had to play up to their ability. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis was injured on the bench for the fifth straight game. While Altman said he doesn’t have a status on Artis, he will visit a doctor on Monday.
Oregon improves to 19-5 on the season and 8-3 in conference play. Oregon is now tied in second place in the Pac-12 with UCLA, one game out of the Arizona’s Pac-12 lead, and will face Washington on the road February 13th.