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UCLA Collapses for the Second Straight Game, Loses to Oregon, 82-74
The Bruins failed to rise to the occasion in the worst way possible.
At one point it looked like UCLA was poised to prove all of the doubters wrong.
With 11:16 left to play, Jaime Jaquez hit a jumper to put the Bruins up by nine points. What had seemed like a tough ask suddenly seemed like a possibility, as the Bruins were playing perhaps their best offensive basketball of the season up to that point.
And then the collapse happened.
In a span of five minutes of game time, the Bruins committed five turnovers, five fouls, and scored two points. In that same span of time, Oregon grabbed all of the momentum, punctuated by a slam dunk on a steal by Eugene Omoruyi. It was an exclamation point, and for UCLA it was a nail in the coffin. Oregon never relinquished the lead from that point on, pushing it as large as 10 points before ultimately defeating the Bruins 82-74.
There will be a lot of finger-pointing from UCLA fans in this one. They will point at the Pac-12 for bending over backwards to gift Oregon this game at home despite being the root cause of the original postponement. They will point at the refs for making some questionable at best calls in the second half while failing to notice the leniency afforded the Bruins in the first half. They will yell at Bill Walton for daring to complement a talented Oregon team. It will all be very predictable.
The simple truth of the matter is that UCLA, at this point of the season, just does not have the talent to hang with an Oregon. The Bruins had been able to skate by against weaker opponents all season despite the loss of Chris Smith and later Jalen Hill but against truly talented teams with solid coaches, they get run off the court. It happened against Colorado on Saturday and it happened against Oregon tonight. There’s no shame in admitting that.
That said, UCLA did themselves no favors in this one, and it starts with Coach Mick Cronin. Cronin got praise from the announce crew all game, and really does have a shot at winning Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the second year in a row, but it is hard to make a case for him in this moment after watching a UCLA squad seemingly have no idea how to break a press. Oregon waited until the second half to turn up the defensive intensity against UCLA, and the Bruins never had a counterpunch. Of UCLA’s 14 turnovers, 12 came in the second half. Blame the refs, but no referee is making Jaime Jaquez pass inbound the ball into the corner against the press multiple times and forcing UCLA to call multiple timeouts in the backcourt.
And as has been the case over the past month, UCLA was not able to overcome a nightmare performance from a starter. In this game that honor fell to Johnny Juzang, who had been UCLA’s best player for weeks but had a night to forget, only scoring six points on 3-12 shooting while turning the ball over four times. Even going to analytics makes it clear how much of a drain Juzang was, as he was the only Bruin to post negatives in efficiency and game score. It was the kind of performance that makes you wonder how he was able to stay on the court for twenty minutes when Jaylen Clark could only manage twelve (and led the team in rebounding despite that! Play Jaylen Clark more minutes please!).
UCLA’s defense was, well, nonexistent. That’s less troubling when the offense can’t miss, but once Oregon turned things up on that end, it became a major concern. The Bruins could not buy a defensive stop, and the Ducks shot a ridiculous 69.6% in the second half alone, and 60.8% on the game. UCLA does not have anyone that would be considered a great defender but this was unbelievably awful defense. And it wasn’t the Chris Duarte show like many expected it might be - Oregon had four of their five starters (all who played 32+ minutes) scoring in double-digits.
The sad part of this loss is that it wastes what was an unconscious performance from Jules Bernard, who had a career-high 23 points on 10-16 shooting. In what I’m sure was not a coincidence, Bernard did not score again after the 13:28 mark of the second half, and in what I am also sure is not a coincidence, UCLA got outscored by 17 points in that stretch. Still, Bernard almost single-handedly put the Bruins ahead in the early going, and it is a shame the team could not rise to the occasion late.
I am sure the excuses will be flowing after this one. Seriously, I can almost guarantee the comments section will be full of people saying that I am underestimating the impact of officiating in this game. But at the end of the day, Oregon won because they have THAT guy. Colorado won because they have THAT guy. Southern Cal already won once because they have THAT guy. UCLA….does not have that guy anymore. They just have a bunch of players who would be great complements to that guy. That’s good enough to win against weaker teams, but it won’t get the job done against the top end of the conference.
Jules Bernard led the Bruins with 23 points. Jaylen Clark led the team with six rebounds, while Tyger Campbell led the team with eight assists. Chris Duarte led the Ducks with 23 points.
Player of the Game: Jules Bernard - Bernard had this wrapped up in the first half, and while he wasn’t as hot throughout the second half, he still led the team in scoring both halves. Bernard continues to show he should have a solid role on next year’s squad, which will be receiving a major talent infusion.
Area of Concern: Mental Edge - To quote the PotG here:Jules Bernard: "The last nine minutes, their whole team was riled up and we just got to have pride and play bigger than we did today. Play like men, like a team. Play with confidence, with heart. They just played with more effort and more heart in the less last 10 minutes."
UCLA did not have the mental edge required to close this game out, same as they lacked a mental edge against Saturday. This late in the season, they are who they are, but it isn’t the best sign going forward.
A note on refereeing - Again, I get if you are upset at the foul calls in this game, but UCLA did truly benefit from the poor refereeing just as much as Oregon did. Cody Riley managed to escape the first half with zero fouls despite playing 15 minutes, and generally was allowed to play physical. The free-throw disparity can similarly be explained by Oregon constantly driving to the basket while UCLA preyed on Oregon’s weak interior with easy layups. I regret to be the one to inform you that the referees did not hand this game to Oregon, no matter what you might think.
UCLA has a few days to regroup before facing what looks to be a clearly-upset Southern California squad in the last regular season game.