Eugene, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - Ranked ninth in the nation and among the elite programs in the Pac-12 Conference, the Utah Runnin' Utes are set to take the floor on Sunday against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena.
The Utes have enjoyed a perfect month of February thus far, winning all five outings since losing to UCLA on the road back on Jan. 9 by a score of 69-59. The latest victory for Utah was a low-scoring 47-37 final versus Oregon State three nights ago. Because of their recent success, the Utes are assured of having their best finish since joining the Pac-12 for the 2011-12 campaign
As for the Ducks, they are gunning for their 20th win of the season, a victory that would give the program five consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins, something that has never happened before in the more than 100-year history of Oregon basketball. The team is coming off a 73-60 triumph over visiting Colorado on Wednesday night, marking its fifth win in the last six outings and pushing the club to 9-5 in league play.
Utah, which came over from the Mountain West Conference, trails in the all- time series between the programs by a 12-9 margin, losing to the Ducks in the most recent encounter last season, 70-68, during an overtime affair in Salt Lake City.
A battle between two of the tougher defensive teams in the Pac-12 took place at Gill Coliseum earlier in the week and Utah came out on top even though the visitor didn't have a single starter score in double figures. In fact, the starting five combined to shoot only 10-of-26 from the floor, leaving it up to Dakarai Tucker to break the double-digit barrier with his 11 points off the bench. Delon Wright accounted for nine points, nine rebounds and five assists, as Utah held OSU to only 2-of-15 shooting behind the 3-point line and 33.3 percent from the floor overall.
Wright, who is in line for postseason recognition on a number of fronts, leads the Utes in scoring when matched up against league foes, pouring in 12.5 ppg, although his perimeter shooting has limited production as he makes only 20.8 percent of his long-distance chances. However, Wright is 91.2 percent sure at the charity stripe, is clearing 4.4 rpg and is the top passer in those 13 Pac-12 outings with 71 assists. Brandon Taylor is not only second in scoring (11.9 ppg), he is second in assists as well (56), while no one else has more than 10 dishes in 13 games.
Joseph Young was again the star for the Ducks as he tallied 23 points, albeit on 8-of-20 shooting from the floor and 2-of-8 behind the 3-point line, as the team dismissed Colorado by double figures at home. Young added six assists and three steals as the hosts forced 16 turnovers and held the Buffaloes to just 2-of-18 shooting beyond the arc and 35.5 percent from the field overall. Dillon Brooks accounted for 14 points, Elgin Cook 13 and Dwayne Benjamin 11 points, to go along with a team-best 13 rebounds in a reserve role.
Young, who has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, is averaging 20.3 ppg in league play thanks to 40.7 percent shooting on the perimeter. But more than just a scorer, Young is also first when it comes to assists versus Pac-12 foes with 46, adding 3.6 rpg while making a name for himself as one of the top performers in the nation. Cook pitches in with 14.3 ppg as he makes good on 53.3 percent of his shots from the floor for a team that is posting 74.1 ppg, but also giving up 73.5 ppg.