Okay, did you all stick around to see how this one ended? Oregon’s win streak at MKA is now 34, as the Ducks dealt #2 UCLA their first loss of the season. The Ducks had been the prohibitive favorite in the Pac-12 , a final four favorite, UCLA was playing to save Steve Alford his job. However, when the two teams met at MKA, the Bruins were flying high, a win at Kentucky on their resume, and the Ducks were still a work in progress.
UCLA started the scoring with two free throws by Thomas Welch, the Ducks tied it on a layup by Dylan Ennis. A jumper By Welch made it4-2 Bruins. How about Welch 6, Ducks 2. A 3 by Ennis made it Welch 6 Ennis 5, then Payton Pritchard hit from deep and it was Oregon 8 Welch 6. Let’s go Welch 8 Oregon 8. Brooks hit a 3, Oregon 11, UCLA 8, then the coach’s kid, Bryce hit for 3, and it was 11 up. 13-13; another 3 by Pritchard, made it 16-13. Two more free throws from Brooks put the Ducks up 5.
Oregon kept the pressure on, the lead staying in the 5-8 range until a spurt put them up 49-37 with 3:08 in the first half. The Ducks were rolling, until a skirmish under the basket resulted in a flagrant foul being called on Kavall Bigby-Williams for hitting, you guessed it, Thomas Welch. Welch hit the two free throws and then Alford connected on another 3; 5 straight by the Bruins and they had the momentum. But, with the crowd behind them, the Ducks held on, and ended the first half, up 5, 52-47.
The first half had actually gone UCLA’s way. The Bruins were averaging 98 points a game; the Ducks had won with defense, holding their opponents to 70 or below in 12 of their 13 games. But, even with that, Oregon was the dominant team in the first half.
Of course the second half was coming up, and if you’ve followed the Ducks you know that shooting is their weakness, as well as they do everything else, putting the ball in the basket is the most important task, and well. The first 5 minutes of the second half went alright for the Ducks, 8-8, making it 60-55. Two free throws by Jordan Bell made it 65-57 at 13:13. Remember that 65 for the Ducks. It would be 5:26 seconds until the Ducks would score any more points, on a couple of free throws by Dorsey; meanwhile UCLA had gone on a 15-2 run and led, 72-67.
With 6:50 to play, another 3 from Alford extended UCLA’s lead to 8, 75-67. Alford hit another 3 and it was 78-70. And I’ll say it, with 6:02 left, I was not thinking positive thoughts. The Ducks had played great in the first half, the crowd was great, but UCLA is going to go on and win this by 18.
But, no. This Oregon team, with The Duck on their chest were true Fightin’ Ducks. With 4:55, Bell slammed one down, 78-72. 3:23 to go, Chris Boucher hit a 3, and it was 82-77, UCLA. 1:28, Pritchard snakes his way to the rim, and in a shot that Steph Curry would admire, put it in, and it was 83-81, UCLA. With 24 seconds to go, UCLA was up 4, 87-83, and I was going through that debate about which was worse, that 18 point blowout I was seeing coming earlier, or this heartbreak that now appeared to be happening?
Payton Pritchard is something to behold. He would be the driving force for fantastic finish. His 3 with: 13 left got the Ducks with in 1, 87-86. He fouled Bryce Alford, Alford missed the free throw. With 1:3 seconds to go, he found Dillon Brooks open at the top of the key, and his assist on Brooks’ 3 had Jerry Allen sounding as excited as he did describing , “The Pick”. Of course the drama wasn’t quite over. The crowd didn’t go crazy when Brooks’ shot went through, they were cleared off in time to not have a technical foul issued. So, UCLA had .08 of a second to get the ball in. But, Lonzo Ball could only make a sidearm heave that wasn’t close.
Brooks ended up with a game high, 23 points. Pritchard, 15 points, 9 assists, 1 turnover. The Ducks came in leading the country in blocked shots; Bell had the only one, on an attempted jumper by Welch. He also put up 13 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. Dylan Ennis was the force at the start and ended up with 10 points at the end; Casey Benson ended up with 6 points, 2 -2 on 3’s. The Ducks ended up shooting 30-67, 42.8%, 11-30, 36.7%. They finished 2 up in rebounds, 37-35. UCLA came in averaging 23 assists per game, Oregon finished even with them in that category, with 19. What stands out in the stats is the turnovers, UCLA finished with 14, Oregon 9. The Bruins finished shooting as well as they have all season, 34-64, 53.1%, 11-25, 44.1% on 3’s. Welch finished with a team leading tie of 20 with Alford. Lonzo Ball finished with 14, TJ Leaf, 13.
This was a HUGE win for the Ducks. Now they have to keep it cool and take care of USC on Friday.