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UCLA’s Comeback Falls Short Against Oregon, 94-91

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5 minutes of good basketball can’t wipe out 35 minutes of bad basketball.

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at Oregon
“How much better than Steve Alford am I? This much.”
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to try something new for this post-game, and provide you a running diary of my thoughts throughout this game between the UCLA Bruins and Oregon Ducks. Hope you enjoy it!

  • I’m starting this late in the first half, for a few reasons. One, I only just got to my computer, since I was eating dinner at the beginning of the half. The other is that I only now decided I wanted to do this, instead of trying to create any deeper meaning from a game that so clearly showed that Steve Alford has no clue when it comes to coaching. And also because DC said I should just copy the post-game from 2 years ago but dammit I have standards.
  • In the time I started typing that, the Pac-12 refs managed to blow 3 calls in a row, Prince Ali had a hilariously bad turnover that led to a fast-break dunk, and Jaylen Hands hit a step-back 3. So yeah, all over the place.
  • Oh, and the Bruins fouled Oregon with 2.1 seconds left in the half. Good basketball team, this one.
  • Ok, we’re at halftime, so let me first say that boy, Aaron Holiday had a nightmare first half. 1 point, 0-2 shooting, 3 fouls (1 a technical), and 2 turnovers in 10 minutes. I can’t even say that’s GG-level play, because at least GG plays within himself on the offensive end. Overall, just a great first-half performance in a must-win game from the team leader.
  • I also can’t say Thomas Welsh is the leader because I just don’t think that’s in his nature. That said, he’s been the bright spot on offense with 11 points on 3-5 shooting, to go with a concerted effort to stay and score inside.
  • You’ll never believe this, but the reason UCLA is losing this game is, again, another mix of bad defense and bad offense. UCLA straight-up refuses to guard 3-point shooter, and I’d conservatively say that 13 of Oregon’s 16 3-point attempts were uncontested. The Ducks also did a ton inside, scoring 24 points in the paint compared to a paltry 10 for the Bruins. The wings are continually losing their assignments, which leads to ridiculous things like Thomas Welsh having to close out on a corner 3 for idiotic reasons.
  • And on offense, it’s the usual bad drives to nowhere combined with dumb turnovers (9 at the half). At least today brought back the old favorite of UCLA struggling when confronted with a press, which Oregon has used sparingly but to great effect.
  • Second half has started, and Kris Wilkes has decided to join the game. Authorities still looking for Prince Ali, who has been missing for a month.
  • I just realized Ali has 10 points right now. I’m leaving it because that may be the quietest 10 points in history.
  • Saw someone start to blame 3-point shooting for the deficit, stating “live by the 3, die by the 3.” They then brought up Oregon’s shooting numbers as a comparison. the hilarious part is that UCLA is actually shooting almost 10% better from distance at this point (41.2% to 33.3% at the 10:30 mark), Oregon just has 11 more attempts, and thus a few more makes. The actual difference is in turnovers, as UCLA has 13 compared to 4 by the Ducks, and points in the paint, which is a 30-18 in favor of the Ducks.
  • AARON HOLIDAY MADE HIS FIRST FG OF THE GAME! And it came with 9:18 to play.
  • Honestly, what might be helping UCLA out more than anything at this point has been the refs, who have really cut the flow if this game. 11 fouls combined with 7:30 to go in this half.
  • UCLA had out a lineup of Aaron Holiday/Thomas Welsh/Kris Wilkes/Jaylen Hands/Chris Smith, and it was surprisingly effective, so of course Prince Ali was subbed in for Hands right when the Bruins cut the lead to 8. Sometimes I just don’t understand the thought process behind any of these moves.
  • I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. UCLA can’t miss and Oregon can’t stop shooting themselves in the foot.
  • Dana Altman becomes the first coach in history to do the smart thing and intentionally foul the opposing team when up 3. Mark this date in your calendars.
  • That was literally the difference in this game. UCLA was never able to get a chance to tie the game, because Oregon would foul UCLA before they got a chance at an open look. That’s what good coaching looks like.

So yeah, that happened.

UCLA was M.I.A. for 34 of this game, and paid the price for it, and now drop to 13-7, 4-4 in the Pac-12. The box score of this game would lead you to believe that UCLA simply got unlucky, as they ended the game having shot 27-52 from the field for 51.9%, along with 11-24 (45.8%) from deep and 26-32 from the FT line. Meanwhile, Oregon went 32-67 (47.8%) from the field, and had the same number of 3’s made as the Bruins on 8 more shot attempts. Oregon only had 1 more assist than the Bruins (19-18) and 2 more rebounds (31-29).

But that’s also why this running diary was so effective, because it allows me to show that UCLA was real bad in the first half, and couldn’t dig themselves out of a hole with an unconscious final 5 or so minutes.

UCLA could not make shots in the first half. Holiday had to sit for a long period with 3 fouls, and the rest of the team (minus Welsh) looked lost without him, though they didn’t look so great in that first half with him to begin with. And Oregon was able to do whatever they wanted on offense. Frankly, that continued into the second half, and Oregon was able to do pretty-much whatever throughout the game. the final run by UCLA was helped along by Oregon missing open shots they had sunk throughout the game. The only Duck who was immune to the miasma of awful at the end was, of course, Payton Pritchard, who calmly sank 4 FTs to put the game away, and always seemed to come up with a big shot or assist whenever the Ducks needed it.

The Bruins did stage a furious rally late, and credit to the team for not giving up, but you have to take the vinegar with the sugar, as that furious rally is not needed if the Bruins had bothered to show up for the 7:21 tip-off.

Kris Wilkes led the Bruins with 21 points. Thomas Welsh led the team with 10 rebounds, while Aaron Holiday led the team with 5 assists. Payton Pritchard led the Ducks with 25 points.

3 Takeaways

  1. Player of the Game: Thomas Welsh - Welsh was the steadying force for the Bruins throughout the game, patiently keeping the team close while waiting for his teammates to show up. UCLA doesn’t make this comeback if Welsh doesn’t have the game he does.
  2. Area of concern: Effort - Make no mistake, this was a must-win for UCLA’s dwindling NCAA tournament chances, so it was especially galling to see UCLA look as lackadaisical as they were through 34 of this game. UCLA continually allowed wide-open 3-pointers and easy drives in the paint, and couldn’t stop turning the ball over (they only had 9 made FGs at halftime). It’s not surprising that, once the effort finally showed up, UCLA was able to close the gap (helped along by some poor shooting from Oregon), but the fact that it took 30 minutes before most of UCLA’s players decided to show up is inexcusable, no matter how “young” they are.
  3. Dana Altman: Good Coach - I can’t stress enough just how much having a good coach led to the ending of this game. UCLA had ALL of the momentum late in this game, and Oregon couldn’t buy a shot to save their lives, so, down 3 with a minute left, UCLA ran a play out of a timeout to give Thomas Welsh a 3-point shot that they didn’t need at that moment. Meanwhile, after a shot clock violation, Dana Altman had his team intentionally foul the Bruins to prevent a game-tying 3-point attempt that could have sent the game into overtime. The Bruins were never able to get over the 1 point hump due to that, and that’s a testament to Altman knowing the situation and coaching his team out of a bad spot.

UCLA returns home for a game against UC Berkeley on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 PM PST.

Go Bruins.