HOUSTON – The University of Utah Runnin’ Utes squared off in the Sweet Sixteen with No. 1 seed Duke in Houston Friday night, and after trailing the Blue Devils all night Utah lost 63-57.
The first four minutes of the game featured more defense than offense on both sides, and Utah didn’t score until 15:15 after Duke had already taken the lead on a free throw from Justise Winslow after a Delon Wright foul and then added another two on a layup from Jahil Okafor.
Utah took their first lead of the game, 4-3, at 14:04 on a layup from Dallin Bachynski. The momentum continued in Utah’s favor as Brandon Taylor sent a defensive rebound across the court to an all-alone Bachynski, who slammed home the dunk to put Utah up 6-3.
Eventually Duke tied the game up at 8, and then took a 10-8 lead on a layup from Amile Jefferson. That lead would stretch to 14-8 before Utah stopped the run with 8:28 to play with a layup from Jakob Poeltl.
Utah closed the gap to 18-15 by 5:54 left in the first. Duke’s Grayson Allen was 1 for 2 after a Delon Wright foul, and Jordan Loveridge narrowed the lead to 17-19 a moment later.
Quinn Cook for Duke scored on a layup, which was the start of a Duke run that put the Blue Devils up 27-19. But Utah recovered some ground in the final minute and a half and went on a 5-0 run to make it 22-27 Duke’s favor at halftime.
Delon Wright started the scoring in the second half to extend Utah’s run to 7-0, but a squandered opportunity that came from an intercepted pass was recovered by Duke, who ended Utah’s run and made it 29-24.
Things proceeded to go Duke’s way, and by the 10-minute mark the Blue Devils were leading Utah 45-34. That lead would grow to 15 (49-35) before Utah was able to put points on the board again, and a layup from Poeltl followed by a three-pointer and then a jump shot for two, both from Brandon Taylor, brought Utah back into striking range at 49-41 with 5:37 left to play.
Winslow converted for three points after being fouled on a jump shot, and he came away with the rebound on Utah’s next attempt to hold the lead for Duke at 52-43. The lead grew by another two after Brekkot Chapman fouled Tyus Jones, who made both shots.
Wright was fouled and made both shots to close the gap to 45-54. Brandon Taylor hit from three at 1:33 to make it 48-54, but he fouled Duke’s Tyus Jones who made both shots. A miss from three-point range necessitated another Utah foul, and Duke’s Matt Jones missed the first but made the second.
Taylor hit from three again to keep it a two-possession game at 57-51 with 46.8 seconds remaining. Utah took a 30 second timeout, and afterward a Loveridge foul sent Jones back to the line, and he made both shots.
Brandon Taylor was fouled and made both shots, and Utah again fouled Jones who missed one and made one to make it 60-53 with 20.2 to go. Taylor was fouled again on the next possession and made both, and a foul before the inbound sent Cook to the line for Duke, who sunk both.
Utah’s defense forced Cook into a corner, resulting in a travel and Utah ball. But Utah couldn’t connect from three-point range. Duke rebounded, and the game appeared to be over, but the officials determined a foul had occurred with 0.7 left on the clock, and Duke came back out to miss one and make one, resulting in a final score of 63-57 Duke.
Duke advances to the Elite Eight and will play against Gonzaga in Houston on Sunday.