LAS VEGAS – To many, Joseph Young’s Pac-12 Player of the Year honor was a surprise. But against Colorado, he sure looked the part, scoring 30 points, including 22 in the second half to will his team into the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.
Oregon (24-8) wasn’t sharp to begin the game. Despite being the No. 2 seed, the Ducks were only favored by about three points against No. 10-seed Colorado (15-17). Early on, the Buffaloes seemed capable of an upset. They were assertive in the paint, with 24 points there in the first half, and the Ducks had struggles making shots (started 0-for-8 on 3-pointers).
“We were dead to start the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I must have put them to sleep before the ballgame with my inspirational speech, because our activity just wasn't very good.”
But after trailing 29-18 with 7:08 remaining in the first half, the Ducks stormed back, utilizing a 44-18 spurt over a period of 15 minutes to seize control of the game. Oregon used a press to force Colorado into mistakes. The Buffaloes had eight turnovers in the run and Oregon would end up outscoring Colorado 27-2 in points off turnovers.
Oregon shot 75.9 percent from the field in the second half, helped by Young’s 9-for-12 performance in the half.
The Buffaloes eventually pulled within four with 2:16 remaining, but Young made a layup and the Ducks made their next six free throws.
Colorado senior guard Askia Booker, who averages 17 points per game, was held scoreless in the first half. He still ended up with 12 points, but it was a tough night for him in his last game, shooting 4-for-14 and eventually fouling out.
“I talked to Ski probably three weeks ago about understanding that he's got to have perspective in terms of what this year is because this is a disappointing year not only for him but certainly for our whole team,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “It's not the way you want to go out.”
Utah comes back too
Just like the evening’s earlier game, a valiant first half effort from the underdog went for not.
Utah (24-7) annihilated Stanford (19-13) in the second half in the Pac-12 quarterfinals, outscoring the Cardinal 46-17 in a game that Stanford led by five points at the break. In the second half, Utah was 8-for-12 on 3-pointers, while Stanford made just six field goals.
"I thought it all started with our defense," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "And when you play as hard as we did defensively, the rim opened up."
Utah’s Delon Wright scored 20 points with seven rebounds and five assists, while also hitting on all four of his 3-pointers.
Early on, Stanford’s seniors did their best to keep the season alive. Center Stefan Nastic scored all 11 of his points in the first half but eventually fouled out. At times, guard Chasson Randle (22 points) became Stanford’s entire offense. Nobody other than Randle scored for Stanford for nearly 13 minutes to begin the second half.
"They just kind of stepped up and made plays and I think on our end we got a little stagnant offensively," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "I thought the ball didn't move as well. I thought we forced some shots and forced some situations which gave them easier opportunities and so we hurt ourselves too."
For Stanford, an NIT appearance seems likely, while Utah gets to face Oregon on Friday for a berth in the Pac-12 championship game.