EUGENE – Any campaign for Oregon’s Dillon Brooks as Pac-12 player of the year might have to start with an endorsement from a coach outside his own camp.
Utah coach Larry Kyrstkowiak saw enough Sunday to believe Brooks might have the right stuff.
“If we get a chance to play him again this year, we’re going to have to get back to the drawing board and come up with a different plan as to how we’re going to defend it because he’s hurt us,” Kyrstkowiak said. “And not just us.
“He’s an all-Pac-12 player at this point and he’s playing at a really high level.”
Brooks had 30 points and nine assists, both career highs, to lead No. 16 Oregon to a 76-66 victory over Utah.
“We didn’t have an answer for Dillon Brooks,” Krystkowiak added. “That was a huge difference in the game.”
Chris Boucher added 15 points and Elgin Cook had 12 for the Ducks (20-4, 9-2 Pac-12), who won their sixth consecutive game and 22nd straight at home, one shy of the school record.
Brooks, who had the first 30-point game for Oregon this season, had six rebounds.
“People tend to put everything on the offensive end, and he had a great game offensively,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He had a couple of communication gaps on the defensive end, and I don’t know if it was his best (game), but it ranks right up there.
“It was a great performance.”
Kyle Kuzma led the Utes (17-7, 6-5) with 18 points and Jordan Loveridge had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Jakob Poeltl, the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, had 13 points and eight rebounds
Oregon made the Utes pay for their 14 turnovers by converting them into 19 points.
The Ducks’ biggest lead was 55-39 on a three-point play by Brooks. Four times the Utes cut the deficit to single digits, and on each occasion, Oregon answered with the ball going through Brooks on all four possessions.
“Dillon was confident, he made a lot of shots and did a lot of good things for us,” Cook said. “He played a real solid game.”
Brooks capped his 17-point second half with a 3 in the last minute for the Ducks’ final points.
Despite his team’s 1 1/2-game lead atop the Pac-12 standings with seven games to go in the regular season, Altman, who didn’t make Brooks available for postgame interviews, was a tougher sell on the sophomore’s candidacy for player of year.
“I just don’t believe a player of the year can be on a team that’s not one or two or three (in the Pac-12) and in the hunt right to the end,” Altman said, “and I think it’s going to be a hunt right to the end. There’s a lot of good teams.”
The lead changed hands seven times before an 11-2 run, capped by Boucher’s high-bouncing 3-pointer, helped put the Ducks up 41-35 at halftime. Brooks had 13 points and four assists.
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