The 17th-ranked Oregon Ducks broke out of a mini-slump with a big second half on both offense and defense Thursday night in a 68-60 win over No. 16 Colorado, and they hope to ride the momentum to another home win when they face Utah on Sunday night.
The Ducks (19-6, 8-4 Pac-12) reclaimed the top spot in the conference, sharing it with Colorado after the win. They've won all 13 games at Matthew Knight Arena this season, and they now have five wins when coming back from a double-digit deficit this season.
Sophomore Will Richardson, who began the season coming off the bench, tied a career high with 21 points, and senior Payton Pritchard, Oregon's floor leader and a conference player of the year candidate, added 15 with a career-high 11 rebounds.
The Ducks had to overcome a third straight game in which they went more than eight minutes without a made basket. That helped Colorado go on a 20-0 run to turn a 16-10 deficit into a 14-point lead in the first half.
Oregon lost the other two games in which they went cold, against Stanford and at Oregon State. On Thursday, the Ducks still trailed by 12 early in the second half but turned things around.
"It didn't look good there for a while," coach Dana Altman said, "but the guys continued to grind it out and find a way."
"All we did was put ourselves back in the hunt," Altman added, according to the Oregonian. "I told the guys it's right there, we have four at home, two on the road and nobody's ahead of us. You control your own destiny, and at this point in the season, that's what you hope for."
Oregon edged Utah 69-64 on Jan. 4 in Salt Lake City, led by Pritchard's 19 points. Both Gach (24 points) and Timmy Allen combined for 43 of the Utes' points, with Allen collecting 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The Utes had won two straight until being thumped 70-51 at Oregon State on Thursday night. Utah (14-10, 5-7) has lost seven consecutive games on the road.
Branden Carlson's 13 points led Utah against the Beavers. Allen scored a season-low six points, well under his average of 17.9 points per game, which leads the team.
Utah managed just 19 first-half points and trailed by 16 going into the second half.
"I thought we got complacent. ... A lot of standing on the perimeter," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "You can't score 19 points in a half, and we were in a little bit of a funk offensively. There's a different storyline for every game, and this one was a little new for us."
Gach returned to action after missing four games with a right knee injury. He scored eight points coming off the bench, but as he gets healthier, he could be a factor on offense and defense, as he was before his injury. The sophomore is the Utes' second-leading scorer at 10.5 points per game.
--Field Level Media