Pac-12 Tournament: Joseph Young's three-point bomb sends Oregon into final
LAS VEGAS – And that's why Joseph Young is the Pac-12 Player of the Year.
The first half? Forget about it. But Young made his mark when it counted most, sinking a long-range three-pointer with just 1.2 seconds left to send the Oregon men's basketball team to a 67-64 win over Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. With the victory, the second-seeded Ducks are set to face No. 1 seed Arizona in the tournament final on Saturday (8:30 p.m. PT, ESPN) at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
As the final seven seconds ticked off the clock, Young brought the ball up the court and got a screen from teammate Dillon Brooks just past the timeline. Instead of driving the ball closer to the hoop, Young just pulled up from about 30 feet away and hoisted the shot.
"That's all she wrote," Young said.
The game-winner came just seconds after Utah star Delon Wright buried a pair of free throws at the other end of the floor to knot the score at 64-64, in a contest that was filled with plenty of late drama.
Young was involved in another crucial sequence in the game's final moments, as he was triple-teamed in front of the Oregon bench and was called for a charge as he tried to get untangled with 12 seconds left. That gave Utah a shot at the final possession down by two, and Oregon freshman Jordan Bell made it a lot easier on the Utes when he picked up a foul far away from the hoop to send Wright to the line.
Even though Wright tied up the game and got the loud Utah crowd going wild, the moment wasn't too big for Young. He finished his evening with 25 points, including 18 in the second half. Once the final horn sounded, he was mobbed by his teammates underneath Oregon's basket.
"That was my first time getting mobbed like that," Young said. "I was just making sure I didn't bust my lip or anything."
It was a remarkable finish for Young considering the way he started the game. After hitting the game's first basket just eight seconds after tip-off, Young didn't convert another field goal until the 54-second mark of the first half.
Not that his teammates ever doubted him.
"[We have] the utmost confidence in him," Brooks said. "He's always the first one in the gym, last one out, taking threes every time. So once I saw him shoot that shot, I knew it was going in. I was ready to run after him, grab him."
It was a tightly contested battle all night, staying a two-posession game throughout. The matchup got off to a blistering pace as the two teams kept trading three-pointers, going a collective 7-of-10 from beyond the arc within the game's first five-plus minutes. Brandon Taylor led Utah's offense all night by going 6-of-9 from three-point range en route to a team-high 24 points.
Despite having a size advantage against his Oregon counterparts, Utah center Jakob Poeltl didn't get involved with the offense early on. He didn't score his first bucket until the 9:54 mark of the first half, but got more involved after the break. He finished with seven points and eight rebounds, while Wright quietly put together a stellar game with 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
"I'm proud of our guys and I don't think we lost that game on the last shot," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "That was a heck of a shot, but that game in my opinion was probably lost in the first half with all of the turnovers."
The Runnin' Utes check in at No. 17 on the Associated Press top 25 poll and are still poised to receive a bid to the NCAA tournament despite losing four of their last seven. But there's no erasing that sting of defeat with a chance to play in the Pac-12 tourney championship.
Meanwhile, the Ducks are one of the hottest teams in the conference, if not the country. Oregon has now gone 13-2 in its past 15 games and gone 8-0 in games decided by four points or less. For a team that gives heavy minutes to four freshman, Oregon coach Dana Altman has his crew playing at a high level for March Madness. The coach pointed to his team's improving defense as the main reason for the late-season success.
"We've made progress," Altman said. "We'll find out how much progress tomorrow night."
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