Oregon's tournament hopes take a hit with loss to UCLA – OregonLive.com
LOS ANGELES — For the fifth time in six games, fans of the hottest team in the Pac-12 left happy. Most filed out of Pauley Pavilion into the 85-degree Southern California sun. Some stayed inside to watch the postgame show on the big screen, as the play-by-play hosts loudly proclaimed about the team’s NCAA Tournament chances and how important of a win it was.
Down a hallway, a member of the former hottest team in the conference tried to dissect a heartbreaking, momentum-crippling loss. He could only get in so many words between constant, positive interruptions from opposing fans.
“Why don’t you transfer?” one elderly man asked Jalil Abdul-Bassit. “The way you shoot we could use you.”
The senior guard just wasn’t able to hit enough to save Oregon from a poor all-around game. Abdul-Bassit had career highs in points (24) and 3-pointers (7), but the Ducks weren’t able to mount any second-half attack, falling to UCLA 72-63 on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.
The loss ended Oregon’s winning streak at four and halted the goodwill Oregon built with six wins in seven games. Talk of the bubble and the NCAA Tournament isn’t dead, but it was certainly damaged by a second half in which the Ducks (18-8, 8-5) struggled to score.
UCLA (16-10, 8-5) beat Oregon soundly for two halves, but Abdul-Bassit single-handedly kept the Ducks in the game for the first 20 minutes. While UCLA out-shot the Ducks in the first half, dominated in the paint, blocked five shots and made more from the line, the Bruins had no answer for the senior from Anchorage, Alaska.
After Oregon fell behind 10-2 to start the game, Abdul-Bassit’s first 3-pointer of the night completed a 10-2 Oregon run that tied the score at 12-12. Though UCLA kept pounding the Ducks, Abdul-Bassit hit four more threes, scoring 16 points in the half, to keep the Ducks within 41-40 at the horn.
The good fortune didn’t continue in the second. Oregon tied the game at 46-46 early in the half, but Norman Powell scored 11 of his team-high 23 points during an 18-10 run that put UCLA up 64-56. From there, the Ducks couldn’t find a stop when needed. When they did, they were susceptible to missed shots or free throws.
In a key situation late, Elgin Cook missed two free throws that would have brought the Ducks within five points with less than three minutes to play. Instead, Kevin Looney would score on a layup and the Ducks were down 70-61 with less than two minutes left. Oregon’s chance was essentially over.
“We just didn’t bounce back in the second half like we needed to,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Free throws, we’ve depended on them all year to keep us in games, and we had a chance to keep it within a bucket or two and (Joseph Young) missed one, Elgin missed four, we just didn’t shoot free throws very well.”
The Ducks also couldn’t buy anything beneath the hoop. UCLA out-rebounded the Ducks 38-24, outscored the Ducks 34-16 in the paint and had five blocks to Oregon’s three. Jordan Bell, Oregon’s lone big man, struggled again with no points, two rebounds, no blocks and five fouls.
“He’s got to get refocused and get going again,” Altman said. “First half, I think that’s maybe as poorly as he’s played.”
And while Oregon has the ability to make runs, UCLA denied every chance. When Abdul-Bassit brought Oregon within 55-53 with 10:13 to play, Powell countered with a layup and the Ducks never came closer.
“That’s a huge win,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “I give a lot of credit to Oregon, that without a true post player they did a good job of forcing you to play all over the court. They can make threes. I thought our guys made good adjustments at halftime. In the second half, I thought that we really defended well, holding them to 34 percent shooting and just 23 points.”
Now, Oregon will return home for two games against Colorado and Utah. The Ducks are now tied for third in the Pac-12 with UCLA, though their RPI, hovering in the mid-50s, took a hit. UCLA all but assured itself a spot in the tournament on Saturday. As long as the Bruins beat the teams they’re supposed to over the final weeks of the season, Alford and company will be dancing.
As for the Ducks, they still have a chance, but now they’ll likely have to add a big win — like an upset of Utah — to work on rebuilding their case.
“I wanted this one so bad,” Abdul-Bassit said. “It was definitely a big game for us.”
— Tyson Alger