When Utah inbounded the ball with the score tied and six seconds left in the first overtime Thursday night, a second extra session appeared to be Oregon's best possible outcome.
Improbably enough, however, the Ducks found a way to do even better.
Inbound passer Dakarai Tucker couldn't get the ball to either Jordan Loveridge or Delon Wright, so the Utah sophomore instead fed Dalin Bachynski 15 feet from the basket. Uncomfortable with the ball at that spot on the floor, the 7-footer made an ill-advised cross-court pass that Damyean Dotson tipped and stole before racing unimpeded for a last-second breakaway dunk that gave Oregon a 70-68 victory.
Dotson's game-winning steal and dunk sparked a wild celebration from an Oregon team that appeared headed for its first loss of the season just minutes earlier.
With Loveridge and Wright scoring from the perimeter and Bachynski altering shots in the paint, a Utah team eager for its first marquee win of the season opened a 10-point second-half lead. It was then that Oregon (13-0, 1-0) responded with a 12-2 spurt fueled by improved defense and an increased emphasis on attacking the rim offensively.
Even then, Oregon needed some huge plays to stay within striking distance.
On the final play of regulation the Ducks sent multiple defenders at Wright to force the ball out of his hands, leading to a rushed Loveridge 3-pointer at the buzzer that was well off the mark. And Oregon only managed to tie the game late in overtime on a smooth driving layup from Dotson with 35 seconds left.
Oregon's victory won't generate headlines since it came against an unranked foe, but make no mistake, this was a tremendous road win. Not many Pac-12 teams will go into high altitude and survive the Utah-Colorado road swing unscathed, but the Ducks are now halfway there.
For Utah, the performance was inspired but the outcome was disappointing.
Though the Utes entered Thursday's game 11-1 with only a road loss at Boise State blemishing their record, Larry Krystkowiak's much-improved team needs a signature victory. Utah's strength of schedule is among the weakest in the nation and its best non-conference win came against struggling BYU, meaning the Utes will have to validate their gaudy record with some high-profile league wins to have any chance at making the NCAA tournament.
Thursday was a huge opportunity for Utah, but Dotson literally stole it from the Utes.
For Oregon, that was a moment of jubilation. For Utah, that was a moment of regret.