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Oregon 83, Washington 77
This game was the barnburner that everyone expected it to be. Washington exploded to an early lead as it made 10 of its first 13 shots, including nine straight points from forward Marquese Chriss, but Oregon took the lead with a 20-7 run at the end of the first half behind 15 points from Chris Boucher.
Boucher scored 19 points in the game and added 11 rebounds and three blocks. Chriss and guard Andrew Andrews also scored 19 for the Huskies, who only shot 37 percent in the second half, fell behind by double-digits and didn’t climb back into the game until it was almost too late.
“We knew they were going at us,” Boucher said. “We tried to make them take a tough shot, but they were going in the paint all the time and driving and kicking it out. So it was kind of tough. But at the end we knew if we stayed together and all go to the rebound, we had a chance to win this game.”
Washington cut an 11-point Oregon lead down to two late in the second half on a possession where the Huskies grabbed three offensive rebounds, which finally paid off with a thunderous dunk by forward Malik Dime. After that, though, Washington made only one of its final six shots, and the Ducks made their free throws to seal the game.
“They can beat you in a lot of different ways,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said of Oregon. “In our case tonight, they did a great job on the backboard, second-chance points, penetration. When you make mistakes, they can make you pay for it.”
Oregon plays Arizona in the semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. MST.
Utah 80, USC 72
USC gave Utah fits with its strong guard play, athleticism and fast tempo, but the Utes’ efficient offense was impossible to stop. Utah shot 60 percent from the field and assisted on 22 of its 31 field goals. Kyle Kuzma scored 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting, Lorenzo Bonam added 14 without a miss and Jakob Poeltl scored 14 and added eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks — his passing out of the post bamboozled the Trojans all night and opened up shots for his teammates all over the floor.
“As soon as I saw the double team coming, I just tried to find the open man,” Poeltl said. “I wasn’t trying to force up any shots. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, I was trying to go up strong, and that was pretty much it.”
USC started strong behind point guard Julian Jacobs, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half. The Utes’ strategy early was to stick to the Trojans’ perimeter shooters and let Jacobs do his thing, and he killed Utah for about 15 minutes. He pushed the pace faster than the deliberate Utes wanted to play and scored a lot of his points in transition.
But Utah stormed back with a 9-0 to end the first half, then pulled away in the second. Guard Jordan McLaughlin got USC back in it with his 24 points, and the Trojans cut the lead to two, but Utes guard Brandon Taylor buried a three from Steph Curry range to put it to rest.
“I thought our strategy was solid, USC coach Andy Enfield said. “But give Utah credit. Their players, like Kuzma, stepped up and had a big game against us, and that’s what happens.”
Utah plays Cal in the semifinals on Friday at 9:30 p.m. MST.
Cal 76, Oregon State 68
Two of the Pac-12’s best defensive teams put on some monster performances in the nightcap. Cal survived behind a career-high 21 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks from forward Ivan Rabb. Oregon State guard Gary Payton II, the conference’s defensive player of the year, scored 20 points, grabbed 17 boards and added two blocks and two steals.
The Beavers’ freshman guard Derrick Bruce showed up with a career-high 25 points; he came into the game averaging three per game. Bruce shot 4-of-6 from downtown and buried some ridiculous off-the-dribble threes. He also created looks for his teammates off of dribble penetration, including a kick-out to a Payton triple that gave Oregon State its first lead of the game.
In the end, though, Cal’s athleticism was too much. Rabb scored a clutch three-point play and rejected a Payton shot in the closing seconds. Guard Jordan Matthews drained a fadeaway three off of an inbounds pass.
“Oregon State, they’re a tough team,” Cal guard Jabari Bird said. “They’re scrappy and they always fight back. So once you get a lead, you can’t get comfortable with them because they always find a way to get back in the games and they find a way to make things grimy.”
Cal plays Utah in the semifinals on Friday at 9:30 p.m. MST.