February 21, 2015

Oregon nearly blew its chance to play for a Pac-12 title for the third time in four years. Instead, the eighth-ranked Ducks get that opportunity and can spoil No. 12 Utah's bid for its first Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Oregon (27-6) has won seven games in a row, a stretch that includes clinching the conference's regular-season championship.

The Ducks carried their momentum into the tournament, beating eighth-seeded Washington 83-77 on Thursday before squandering a 17-point lead and overcoming a late meltdown to pull away in overtime and defeat 15th-ranked Arizona 95-89 on Friday.

Oregon lost to the Wildcats in last year's Pac-12 final, and almost gave this year's semifinal away. After leading by four in the waning moments of regulation, Arizona hit a 3-pointer with a second left and Mark Tollefsen stole the ensuing inbound pass and was fouled on a shot attempt, but he hit only one of two free throws to send it to OT.

"We were fortunate they missed one of the free throws, and we had another opportunity," coach Dana Altman said. "Most teams don't recover from that."

Oregon did and can now win its first conference tournament title since 2013.

Elgin Cook is bidding to become the tournament's MVP after scoring 22 points against the Wildcats and 19 in the quarterfinals. He's averaging 20.3 over the last six games, while freshman Tyler Dorsey has put up 18.8 in the past four.

Both, however, have struggled in two meetings against Utah this season despite the Ducks extending their win streak in the all-time series to six. Cook totaled 21 points on 7-of-19 shooting and Dorsey missed 8 of 11 shots with seven points in those games.

Dillon Brooks, Oregon's leader with 16.7 points per game, doesn't have any such problems against Utah (26-7). He's averaging 21.0 points in four career matchups, including 51 total this season.

The sophomore forward put up career highs of 30 points and nine assists in a 76-66 home victory over the Utes on Feb. 7.

Brooks also came through Friday, scoring seven of his 19 points in overtime after his foul on Tollefson nearly cost the Ducks the game.

Utah is aiming for its first conference crown since winning the Mountain West in 2009. The Utes moved to the Pac-12 in 2012 and this is the first time they've reached the title game. However, their runs to the semifinals in two of the last three seasons ended in matchups with Oregon, including last year's 67-64 defeat.

"It's been a goal of ours to try to play in that game," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I think we've taken a step forward for our program, but Oregon, there is a reason they finished first. They have an awful lot of firepower. Those kids play hard, and it's going to be enjoyable to be a part of.

"I think both teams are probably running on fumes here a little bit."

Like the Ducks, Utah also needed to go to overtime to beat No. 24 California 82-78 and book a spot in the final. Down two with 4.3 seconds left in regulation, Lorenzo Bonam took an inbound pass and went the length of the floor to hit a layup at the buzzer and force the extra session.

"We talked about 5 seconds being a lot of time, you can go from end to end," Krystkowiak said. "He's about as quick a guy there is when he's going downhill."

Bonam finished with 18 points Friday, but he's only managed to get seven on 3-for-11 shooting against Oregon this season.

Jakob Poeltl is looking to build on his 29 points and 11 rebounds against the Golden Bears after getting 14 and eight in an 80-72 win over Southern California on Thursday.

The Ducks are 23-0 when leading or tied at the half.

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