2016 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament: Oregon presents a puzzle for Utah to solve
LAS VEGAS – Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak may have been tired but he still had his wits about him.
Following the Utes' 82-78 overtime win against California on Friday, Krystkowiak met with the media while the clock struck midnight. In 19 hours, his team would face the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game.
Asked to preview tomorrow's game, Krystkowiak paused a beat.
“It's actually today,” he said.
That's not much time to solve a problem: How to overcome an Oregon team that twice beat Utah this year and has played to rave reviews here in Las Vegas. The Ducks beat No. 4 seed Arizona in Friday's first semifinal.
“We've got a great game-plan but we can't tell you,” Krystkowiak said sarcastically before leaving the podium Saturday morning.
Oregon's Dillon Brooks presents the biggest challenge for Utah after he scored 21 and 30 points, respectively, in the two Duck wins this year.
“He's absolutely killed us both games,” Krystkowiak said. "We had somewhat of a decent gameplan in Eugene but we had no answer for Dillon Brooks. We are going to have to figure out somebody who can guard him.”
Brooks and the Ducks enter the championship game feeling good about themselves. They are the most positionless team in the Pac-12, and have put their versatility to good use in both wins here.
In their first tournament game on Thursday, Oregon pounded the offensive glass against a long, athletic Washington squad. Friday night against Arizona they played explosively in the final two minutes of the first half and stayed afloat with aggressive defense as their offense had its ups and downs.
Arizona outscored the Ducks by 15 points in the second half, crashing the offensive glass and making up seven points in the final 30 seconds of regulation to force overtime. But the Ducks took the punch and prevailed in overtime, providing further proof of their resiliency.
"Most teams don't recover," Oregon coach Dana Altman said afterward. "They have a ballgame, they let it slip, and it's very difficult to recover from that and win a ballgame. ... I thought our guys showed tremendous resiliency in finding a way to win the game."
Arizona coach Sean Miller echoed Krystkowiak in praising the Ducks upon their championship ticket being punched.
“If you add up their individual talent, though they have some tremendous players, their whole becomes greater," Miller said. “And that's the ultimate compliment in basketball, because that group of five has to play both offense and defense. They're not the biggest group, but I'll tell you this, this is not a harder working, more together, tough-minded team than them.”
Despite their lack of brute strength in the frontcourt, Oregon held Poeltl to seven and 13 points in their two regular-season games. The Utah big man, however, is coming off a confidence-building 29-point game, and he'll face an aggressive matchup zone rather than Cal's man to man.
“First of all, we got to figure out a way how to guard them,” Poeltl said of Oregon. “We let them get to our basket way too easy in both of those games, especially Dillon Brooks.
“I just got to try to be aggressive.”
Friday's Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game will air on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. PT/8 MT.