LAS VEGAS — Trying to beat Oregon at the rim with the game on the line is becoming a bad idea in this Pac-12 tournament.
The long arms of Kenny Wooten are making sure of it.
Elijah Brown led Oregon’s second-half comeback and Wooten finished it off with his second straight game-ending blocked shot, lifting the Ducks to a 68-66 win over Utah in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals on Thursday night.
“It was a big play,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He (Sedrick Barefield) got away from us on the baseline and was going to get a pretty good look, and Kenny got it. Big play.”
Utah (19-11) was in control well into the second half of a foul-filled game behind its shooting. The Utes shot 51 percent from the field, made 8 of 17 from the 3-point arc and led by 11 early in the second half.
They just had a hard time shaking the Ducks (22-11).
Oregon chipped the lead down to two with three minutes left and MiKyle McIntosh put the Ducks ahead up 68-66 on a 3-point play with 62 seconds left.
The teams traded missed shots, giving Utah the ball with 9.7 seconds left. Barefield drove the length of the court, swooped under the basket for a reverse layup, the chance to tie the game at his fingertips.
Wooten crushed the Utes’ hopes, flying in to swat the ball away at the buzzer. He had a similar effect in Oregon’s first-round game against Washington State, blocking two shots in the final 13 seconds.
Brown scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half and hit seven 3-pointers, one shy of the tournament record. McIntosh finished with 18 points
Now the Ducks are head to the semifinals, Friday night against USC.
“We decided to get some stops, get rebounds, just keep attacking and getting the best shot we can for each other,” McIntosh said. “Some shots went down, and that’s when the game kind of turned around for us.”
Oregon overcame it shaky shooting by grabbing 12 offensive rebounds to extend possessions and made 19 of 25 free throws.
Justin Bibbins led Utah with 20 points and David Collette had 16 before fouling out.
“It was the offensive rebounds where they got extra possessions and you can’t defend the free-throw line,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “That’s a big part of it, and they pressed and we lost a little bit of our offensive rebounding.”
The final Pac-12 quarterfinal was essentially an NCAA Tournament bubble buster.
A regular-season win over Arizona gives the Utes a slight bubble edge over the Ducks, but neither team could afford a loss and realistically expect an NCAA bid. Both teams likely need a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament to have any shot.
Oregon took its first step in the first round on Wednesday, overcoming a 17-point first half to beat Washington State 64-62 in overtime.
The Ducks made seven of their first eight shots against the Utes and Utah answered with an 8-0 run. Outside of those stretches, neither team could get much to fall.
Utah went more than seven minutes without a field goal, yet still shot 9 of 19 and led 30-25 at halftime. Oregon shot 8 of 27, missing 9 of its final 10 shots.
Utah got the second half off to a hot start just like the first, opening 6 of 7 from the field to stretch the lead to 45-36.
Oregon continued to clang away, going 5½ minutes without a field goal, yet still managed to keep the Utes within reach.
The Ducks started seeing the ball go in the basket, closing to within four on Brown’s 3-pointer with seven minutes left and kept going from there.
“It’s just the flow of the game,” Bibbins said. “They got hot late, we kind of cooled off. You have a low margin of error at this time and they made plays.”
Utah had multiple chances to put the Ducks away and couldn’t do it.
Oregon has proven its resilience so far in the Pac-12 Tournament, rallying to win both games.
Oregon moves on to Friday’s semifinals against USC.
Utah will have to wait to see what its postseason options will be.