Ducks Prepare For Improving Utes

EUGENE -The last time Oregon saw the Utah Utes it was in the semifinals of the 2013 Pac-12 tournament. The Ducks beat up on the upset-minded Utes 64-45 on its way to a Pac-12 tournament championships.

EUGENE -The last time Oregon saw the Utah Utes it was in the semifinals of the 2013 Pac-12 tournament. The Ducks beat up on the upset-minded Utes 64-45 on its way to a Pac-12 tournament championships.

Since the one-sided loss, the Utes (11-1) have lost just once, earlier this season at Boise State by two points. Utah ranks second to Oregon (12-0) in scoring offense, third nationally, and holds claim to one of the conference's top up-and-coming stars Jordan Loveridge.

Needless to say, this is a much different Utah basketball team than the one Oregon memorably ravaged 94-48 to conclude the 2011-12 Pac-12 season.

The match-up becomes all the more worrisome when Utah's 54.2-percent team shooting percentage is considered. The mark is best in the country by two full points, and could prove disastrous for Oregon's defense which has continually been a concern for coach Dana Altman.

"They're scoring a lot of points, the shooting percentage is off the charts," Altman said after Saturday's win over Morgan State. "We're going to have to get our defense turned up and we're going to have to be really good on the boards."

The Utes 11-1 record has been bolstered by 11 home games, but just one team has been within 16 points, including BYU, who lost by 17 a week before Oregon needed overtime to win.

Regardless, Oregon will still be a heavy favorite in Salt Lake City. The Ducks were ranked tenth in the latest AP poll and Utah has yet to receive a vote.

The Utes were picked to finish ninth in the pre-season Pac-12 media poll.

"It's a big-time conference," said leading scorer Joseph Young. "You can't just come into the game thinking 'Oh they're No. 9.' You've got to come out with the same mentality every game. You can't just go out their thinking you're going to beat this team because you have a better record."

Young believes his team is ready for the tolls of conference basketball, but that Oregon's inability to improve defensively will give opponents a mental edge.

"We've just got to be more ready," he said. "Because I know coming into the conference and the teams that we didn't take a step on, they're going to be looking at the film and like 'We can get this team'.

"So if we can come in with that intensity and let them know 'We're here to play defense and a full game as a team', then we'll be pretty good."

Following Thursday's game at Utah, the Ducks will travel to play Colorado. Oregon is currently winless in tries at Boulder since the Buffaloes joined the league in 2011-12, and 1-3 on the Utah-Colorado road trip.

That includes two heartbreaking losses to close last year's Pac-12 regular season. Oregon had needed just one win to win the league outright, but stumbled badly in each.

We didn't have a very good road trip last year in Salt Lake and Boulder, so hopefully our guys will be better prepared and we'll have them bette prepared and we'll play better than a year ago.

The Ducks and Utes will tip off at 5 p.m. in Salt Lake Thursday. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks with Kevin Calabro and Matt Muehlebach on the call.

Projected Starters-

Utah (11-1)

PG- Brandon Taylor (5-10, 162) 11.0 points per game, 4.1 assists per game

SG- Dakari Tucker (6-5, 190) 7.8 points per game, 2.2 rebounds per game

SF- Delon Wright (6-5, 180) 14.9 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game

PF- Jordan Loveridge (6-6, 218) 17.3 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game

C- Renan Lenz (6-9, 221) 8.3 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game.

Oregon (12-0)

PG- Johnathan Loyd (5-8, 163) 9.3 points per game, 6.7 assists per game

SG- Joseph Young (6-2, 220) 20.2 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game

SF- Damyean Dotson (6-5, 209) 11.3 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game

PF- Mike Moser (6-8, 211) 13.9 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game

C- Richard Amardi (6-8 224) 7.2 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game.

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