EUGENE, OR.- After such a dominant win against Washington State last weekend, the Ducks were looking to carry over that momentum into Thursday night’s game against the legendary UCLA Bruins. Last year, Oregon ended up beating UCLA in the PAC-12 Championship game, which gave the Ducks a birth into the NCAA tournament. By UCLA’s effort last night and SportCenter Top Ten-like highlight plays, it was obvious they were looking to get some Duck-hunting revenge going.
From the moment the ball was tipped-off, it was clear that Joseph Young was going to be the Duck’s shining star of the night. Young pushed the ball down the floor, attacked the basket early, and got to the line for a perfect 10-10 on the game.
However, to offset Young’s explosive scoring outburst, team leader Mike Moser got into foul trouble early, leading to him sitting on the bench for a majority of the first half.
With Moser taking a seat, Young took it into his own hands to supply the team with buckets. He had 16 points just in the first half, coming off three treys, and one-on-one moves to the basket. Oregon came out with a zone, which looked pretty smooth early, but very quickly turned into guys not knowing their where their spots were, allowing UCLA to take advantage of the Ducks with easy baskets.
The Ducks transitioned quickly into a man defense, which for the most part was pretty effective throughout the entire game. UCLA initially played a man-to-man defense, which gave the Ducks trouble, but for some odd reason, the Bruins decided to switch into a zone defense, and the Ducks saw this as an opportunity to attack! After trailing for the majority of the first half, Oregon came back to take a 23-21 lead, making UCLA go back into their man-to-man defense.
Guys were getting substituted in and out constantly by Coach Altman, until Jason Calliste decided to make some things happen off the bench.
Calliste, someone who the Ducks relied on a lot earlier in the season, has somewhat faded throughout the Ducks PAC-12 play. However, last night, Calliste looked in prime form as he chipped in eight points off the bench in the first half, but went for 21 on the game!
Oregon led at the half 36-32, primarily due to UCLA’s shooting slump. Oregon was able to knock down a big 6 three-point shots, to the Bruins 2. Everything was working in the Ducks favor, until the second half hit.
In the first half, Oregon was able to penetrate relatively well through the 2-3 zone played by the Bruins, but as soon as UCLA went to man, Oregon had some trouble responding. That’s exactly what happened at the beginning of the second half as well.
The Ducks looked very indecisive on offense, leading to break-away opportunities by the Bruins off the Duck’s missed shots/turnovers. One person who was able to capitalize with some nasty authority off transition was guard Norman Powell, who had a one heck of a jam over Richard Amardi, giving UCLA all of the momentum throughout the majority of the second half.
Oregon, throughout the entire season, has had trouble creating shots for themselves in the half-court set, and it was blatantly obvious against UCLA how difficult it really is for them to create opportunities. The ball swings from one side of the court to the other, but there’s minimal movement inside the paint area, very few screens being applied, and the game speed is that of practice.
The answer to this conundrum is simple . . . Simply let it fly! Sometimes the worst shots are the best shots, because they allow for easy put-back opportunities. Also, I think a lot of it has to do with how picky the players are, looking for what is considered a ‘good shot’. More risks need to be taken on offense, so that more reward will be produced.
However, even with Oregon struggling to buy a basket, their energy never seems to run out. It may have been the fact that they were on ESPN 2, or maybe it was because Bill Walton, LeGarrette Blount, and Ed Dickson were in the house, but something lit a fire under the Ducks giving them a second chance at the game, as they made one heck of a comeback after being down by 11 at one point.
Calliste and Young took it into their own hands, as Moser was continuously in foul trouble, and mentally out of it after being taken out for so long. Young finished with 25 on the night in the Ducks’ hard-fought-yet-disappointing comeback attempt.
It started with a Calliste steal leading to a fast break layup, followed by a huge ‘and-one’ take by Young. Then, Calliste hit a dagger of a three to put the Ducks up 66-65 with just 1:28 to go in the game. But, right back at them came UCLA’s Jordan Adams with an and-one of his own, tying the game up.
Calliste then shot a three with about 36 seconds to go, but goes in and out giving UCLA a shot at winning the game. The Bruins miss their potential last shot of the game, but on the rebound, Richard Amardi got tangled up and called for a jump-ball, giving UCLA one last shot.
The Bruins hit a tear-drop giving them the lead 70-68, and with 5 seconds left, Coach Altman drew up a play that apparently wasn’t read correctly by point guard Johnathan Loyd. With Joseph Young running a loop, looking to get the ball from Johnathan Loyd as he sprinted down the court, Loyd took it himself and was blocked on the runner in the lane which would have sent the game to overtime. Coach Altman in his post-game talk said, “We were hoping he would get a look for Joe there,” but unfortunately that was not the case.
Oregon will look to redeem themselves on Saturday against the Trojans. When asked about whether or not Coach Altman thinks they’re ready for match-ups against the “Upper Echelon teams” he responded, “We gotta take it one game at a time.”
Top photo by Steven Francis