- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Utah managed to keep Oregon close through the Pac-12 championship’s first 10 minutes despite poor shooting and some careless mistakes.

Once the Ducks started flying, the Utes had no chance of catching them.

Utah lost its grip on the title game during a blistering run by Oregon to close out the first half and never recovered, sending the 12th-ranked Utes to an 88-57 loss to the eighth-ranked Ducks on Saturday night.

“I wouldn’t want to play them. I know that,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said about the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon won the regular-season title and Utah (26-8) was right behind. They held up through the conference tournament, setting up a matchup worthy of a neon marquee on the Strip.

Oregon (28-6) turned it into Duck dynast, putting on a defensive show to sweep conference regular-season and tournament titles for the first time.

Harassing the Utes across the court and jumping into passing lanes, the Ducks had 13 steals and scored 28 points off the Utes’ 20 turnovers.

Oregon was just as good on offense, shooting 52 percent while making 11 of 22 from 3-point range in its eighth straight win. Chris Boucher had 15 points and tournament MVP Elgin Cook added 11 with six assists.

The Ducks also scored 23 points off 17 offensive rebounds and had 16 assists with seven turnovers to win their fourth Pac-12 title in the second-most lopsided game in tournament history.

The dominating performance gave Oregon its best record after 34 games since 1938-39 and put it in position for a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“It was just our night,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Not the game we anticipated, but we just got on a roll and that happens.”

After a surprising run to last year’s title game, the Ducks have become the Pac-12’s dominant force, their flock of beat-you-off-the-dribble high-flyers causing matchup problems for anyone who tries to stop them.

The Utes are the conference’s rising stars, led by one of the nation’s most unstoppable forces, 7-footer Jakob Poeltl.

To become kings of the Pac-12 Tournament, Utah would have to find a way to solve Oregon.

The Ducks won the two regular-season meetings easily, including a 10-point victory in Salt Lake City. Brooks was the orchestrator for Oregon, scoring 51 combined points, while Poeltl was kept quiet, scoring 20 combined points on just nine shots.

Oregon was at its passing-lane-jumping disruptive best in the first half of the title game, flustering the Utes into a string of mistakes.

The Ducks scored 19 points of Utah’s 13 turnovers and converted nine offensive rebounds into 11 more points. Oregon had nine steals in the half - several of those on weak passes by the Utes - and took 20 more shots (35-15) to lead 38-21 at halftime.

“We lost this game basically in the first half,” said Poeltl, who had 13 points. “We just didn’t have the energy or the focus to come back from those easy baskets that we gave them.”

Little changed in the second half.

Oregon kept jumping in passing lanes for steals and hounding the Utes into mistakes, stretching the lead to 21 in the first 2 minutes to continue the rout.

LIMITING POELTL

Poeltl has been a tough matchup for every team, but Oregon has found a way to limit his effectiveness.

The Ducks made it difficult for the Utes to even find him in the post and swarmed him pretty much every time he touched the ball.

Poeltl hit 4 of 6 shots, but was limited to four rebounds and had five turnovers.

“If we were going to throw the ball into the post, it was open for a split second,” Utah guard Brandon Taylor said. “If we held the ball too long, they covered him and got back in front of him.”

TIP INS

Utah: Poeltl had 11 points at halftime. … The Utes had won nine straight. … The most lopsided game in tournament history was Arizona’s 32-point win over Utah in 2014 and UCLA over Oregon State by the same margin in 2006.

Oregon: The Ducks played in consecutive tournament championship games for the first time in program history. …. Oregon also won Pac-12 titles in 2003, 2007 and 2013.

WHAT’S NEXT

Utah will play in the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon will be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament next week.


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