Salt Lake City, UT (SportsNetwork.com) - The Utah Utes will have a chance to prove themselves on Thursday, as they open Pac-12 Conference play against the 10th-ranked Oregon Ducks at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Oregon ripped through its non-conference schedule, sporting a 12-0 record as league play begins. The Ducks haven't had many chances away from home this season, with their only true road contest ending with a 115-105 overtime win at Ole Miss. During the 2012-13 campaign, Oregon tied for second place in the Pac-12 with a record of 12-6.
Other than a 69-67 loss to Boise State in early December, the Utes have been perfect. A major reason for their success has been a schedule filled with home games, as the loss to the Broncos was the only bout away from the Huntsman Center for the Utes. Now Utah, which went just 5-13 in league play last season, needs to prove it can succeed against the rest of the Pac-12. A matchup with Oregon State is next on the schedule.
The Ducks routed Utah, 64-45, in the 2013 Pac-12 Tournament. The teams split the season series, with the home team coming out on top each time. Oregon's two wins however, gives it an 11-9 edge in the all-time series.
Last Sunday, Oregon finished its non-conference slate with a 97-76 trouncing of Morgan State. The Ducks nailed 54 percent of their shots from the floor, and were led by a 24-point effort from Joseph Young. Oregon was also able to earn a major advantage on the boards (42-26).
Slowing down the Ducks has been nearly impossible thus far, as they lead the country in scoring (90.8 ppg), while shooting the third-best percentage from the field (.513). Young (20.2 ppg) is the team's leading scorer, enjoying an incredible season after transferring from Houston. He has scored at least 20 points in six games and is netting 54.8 percent of his field goal attempts, which includes a 46.7 percent effort from beyond the arc. Mike Moser (14 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is another transfer who has found success in Eugene, leading the team in rebounding after coming over from UNLV. Jason Calliste (12.1 ppg) and Damyean Dotson (11.3 ppg) are also double-figure scorers.
Utah has been off since last Friday when it obliterated NAIA foe St. Katherine, which is playing its first season of collegiate basketball, 124-51. Jordan Loveridge scored 17 points, as nine different players scored at least eight points. Utah also had an incredible 71-12 advantage on the glass and held its overmatched opponent to a dismal 17-of-70 (.243) showing from the field.
The Utes have dominated just about every team that has crossed their path this season, and the team leads the nation in field goal percentage (.542) and is a top-25 squad in scoring (87.4 ppg), assists (19 apg), rebounds (41 rpg), scoring defense (59.8 ppg) and opponent field goal percentage (.370). Loveridge (17.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg) heads up the club's effort both on offense and on the boards. The 6-foot-6 forward has five double-doubles this season, but has had only two since hanging one up in each of the first three games. Delon Wright (14.9 ppg, 7 rpg, 5.9 apg) stuffs the stat sheet, and Brandon Taylor (11 ppg, 4.1 apg) is a solid contributor in the backcourt.