WESTWOOD, CA. – Holy moly, was this a battle for the ages! If the Ducks ever needed a game to boost their confidence this was it! After a frustrating loss to UCLA back in Eugene earlier this year, Oregon made a personal note to themselves that when they’d visit UCLA, they would take them down for how they embarrassed them in their own home. That’s exactly what the Ducks did, as Oregon had to dig deep within themselves to pull out the 87-83 double overtime win.
Out of Oregon’s starting five, only two scored throughout the first half. Joseph Young had 10, while and Damyean Dotson had four. Offense was hard to come by for both teams as UCLA shot 30% from the field and Oregon shot 39%. What the Ducks did have going for them was the smooth play from the outstanding back-up guard Jason Calliste, as he carried the team on his back, dropping 15 points just in the first half.
With Calliste scoring the ball at will, and Mike Moser putting up 10 boards – giving Oregon more opportunities and not allowing UCLA to get second chance points – the Ducks took charge and led at the half, 37-25.
The Ducks couldn’t depend on Jason Calliste to carry them to the victory on his own. Oregon rallied their troops, and gave them all they had in the second half. With UCLA clamping down even more on defense, they were able to make a run back into this one off of Oregon’s missed shots and mental mistakes. However, even with everything going against Oregon toward the end of the second half, the Ducks still should have been able to finish the deal.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. With the Ducks up by four with eight seconds to go, UCLA hit a miraculous three-pointer to be down by only one after the Ducks led by double digits for the majority of the second half. Joseph Young then hit two free-throws to put the Ducks up by three, but UCLA was able to get one last shot off with 1.3 seconds left off of a Hail Mary pass down the court to David Wear who hit the shot of his life, sending this one to overtime.
No one could believe the Cinderella story that UCLA was writing for themselves, but it was happening before our very eyes. All hope seemed lost for the Ducks, as all of the momentum swung in favor of UCLA toward the end of the second half and carrying over into the first overtime. Oregon was unable to move the ball around, nor were they able to get good shots off, as UCLA was hounding them on every possession.
But somehow, UCLA was unable to convert on their opportunities as well, and allowed the Ducks to match UCLA’s score, and send this one into a second overtime. This just seemed like another one of those heart-breaking Duck losses, but the Ducks didn’t give up on themselves. In fact, the adversity woke them up and pushed them even more in the second overtime.
With Mike Moser dominating the boards — he finished with 20 – and Joseph Young absolutely slicing, dicing and serving up shots in UCLA’s face, the Ducks ended up being too much to handle for the Bruins. A huge three-point basket by Joseph Young in the corner sealed the deal for Oregon, as they came out victorious in UCLA’s hostile stadium.
For the game, Young finished with 26 and Calliste finished with 18. UCLA’s Bryce Alford decided to go for a career-high 31 points on the Ducks, but thankfully it wasn’t enough to get them the W. Much respect to UCLA for a nearly miraculous comeback win.
Oregon proved a lot to themselves and to their fans on Thursday night. They showed character, discipline and maturity. They showed that no matter what the situation looks like, it’s never over until the final buzzer sounds.
This Duck team isn’t out of the mix for the NCAA tournament by any means. If anything, these sorts of games give the team confidence, telling them that if they did it once, they can do it again. Now, unfortunately, the game should probably have never been in the position it was in by the end of the second half, and the team needs to hit their free throws in late-game situations, but overall the Ducks handled themselves very well.
The biggest mistake for the Ducks was holding the ball toward the end of the game, trying to run the clock down. For most teams, that’s probably a good strategy, because they can create opportunities in a half court set relatively easily, but the Ducks are of a different breed. They’re not a great half-court set team, and need to continually move the ball around until a good shot presents itself, otherwise they’ll end up chucking up some bad shots.
Oregon has only been improving in their recent games, and like I’ve been saying, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Hopefully, the Ducks can finish just as well as they started.