UCLA fans have lived through the disappointment, frustration, anger, and any other word that you can find to describe this 2018-2019 season. That said, if there is a fanbase that might be able to relate a little with UCLA Bruins fans, it’s the Oregon fans. The Oregon Ducks were picked in the Preseason Media Poll to finish first in the Pac-12, but they sat in sixth place going into tonight’s game against the Bruins.
Well, never fear, it’s the 2018-2019 Pac-12 that we are witnessing. While the Washington Huskies have pretty much run away with the conference, the rest of the teams, except the lowly UC Berkeley Golden Bears, are still looking to get one of the remaining top three spots in the conference standings heading into the tournament. But the margin for error for these spots is getting smaller.
So, who was able to help their chances for one of those remaining three spots tonight?
The Ducks started off on fire from behind the arc, with Paul White and Payton Pritchard combining for three of them early. The Bruins were able to cool off the Oregon’s hot start with a five-point possession that included a David Singleton three and a flagrant one foul by Francis Okoro on Moses Brown. Brown missed both free throws, but UCLA received the possession from the flagrant and Kris Wilkes drilled a floating jumper to pull the Bruins to within four, 11-7, heading into the first media timeout.
UCLA was able to tie the score up 17-17 at the 12:09 mark after Jules Bernard hit two free throws, but the Bruins could not deal with Oregon’s interior passing that led to open threes for the Ducks, as they pushed the lead to 30-22 at the 7:42 mark. The Oregon run also seemed to coincide with a strange stretch where David Singleton was mysteriously on the bench.
UCLA went on a drought over the final nine and a half minutes of the half where they made just 1 of 12 shots. Meanwhile, Oregon just continued to carve up the Bruins defense from the inside and from behind the arc and extended their lead 42-26 at the 2:45 mark.
The Ducks closed the half with some unbelievable shooting. They shot 63% from the floor and a staggering 67% from behind the arc. They outhustled and outworked UCLA and went into the locker room up 44-28 at the half.
In another nationally televised game, you had Dave Pasch and Bill Walton questioning the UCLA players and specifically calling them out for their effort and commitment in that first half.
Oregon came out with the same crisp passing that they had in the first half with Pritchard draining a three on their first possession. The Bruins answered with back-to-back threes from Wilkes and Jaylen Hands and they were trailing 47-36 early in the second.
UCLA picked up the pressure, and went on a 9-0 run to pull within 53-47 at the 12:50 mark, capped off with a deep three from Hands. Dana Altman had seen enough and called a timeout.
The timeout didn’t work because, out of timeout, the Jaylen Hands show went primetime. The Ducks missed a three out of the timeout and Hands came down and drilled another shot behind the arc to pull the Bruins to within, 53-50. They held Oregon on their next possession and, then, the heat check came when Hands pulled up and drained another three from about 25 feet out to tie the game 53-53. Hands continued his scoring exhibition after a Duck miss as he streaked down the court in a blur for a beautiful lay-up to finally put UCLA up, 55-53 and extend the Bruin run to 17-0 at the 10:36 mark.
The next big play for UCLA came at the 5:55 mark when Wilkes was fouled by Will Richardson on a three and Wilkes was able to convert the four-point play and the Bruins were up 68-62. Oregon came down and Louis King hit a three-pointer to pull them within 68-65.
UCLA just could not be stopped and continued with their second half explosion, this time it was a quick Jalen Hill five-point mini-run, as he converted an and-one and capped off his run with a lob from Hands to put the Bruins up 73-65.
It wasn’t over for the Ducks. At the 1:36 mark, HIll fouled Victor Bailey Jr. as he was shooting a three and Bailey converted the four-point play, and Oregon was down 83-75.
The UCLA dagger came as Hands drilled another 25-foot plus shot as he milked the shot clock down which put the Bruins up 86-77 and they didn’t look back. When the buzzer sounded, the Bruins had beaten the Ducks, 90-83.
UCLA definitely woke up in this game and created a way different narrative than their first half play was creating on national television.
This win puts the Bruins at 8-7 in the Pac-12, with a few teams that are ahead of them in the standings left on their schedule. One of those teams is the Southern Cal Trojans, who happen to be their last home game of the year. The Trojans visit Pauley Pavilion this Thursday. The game starts at 6:00 pm PT and will be another nationally televised game for the Bruins on ESPN.
UCLA Player Grades
Moses Brown: C-
Brown just has so much to work on on the offensive end. Obviously, his 0 for 4 from the free throw line make him a liability in close games.
Jaylen Hands: A
He pretty much brought the Bruins back and put them ahead all by himself. He went from zero first half points to 27 second half points. There’s not much more to say. It was simply amazing.
Kris Wilkes: B+
Wilkes played a solid game and scored 13 second half points to help the Bruins and thier comeback.
Chris Smith: D
From hero to almost zero in this game. Smith simply did not play very well in this game.
David Singleton: C
It was a strange game for Singleton. He played well early but, for some reason, Bartow limited his minutes in this game.
Jules Bernard: A
I have talked constantly about his effort this year. Bartow loves him and it shows with his minutes. Bernard rewarded Bartow with a stellar game.
Cody Riley: D
Can’t question his effort, but he gets ahead of himself on the offensive side of the ball far too often. He just needs to slow down on that end.
Jalen Hill: C+
Hill had that big five-point run for the Bruins and he finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Alex Olesinski: C
Olesinski played more minutes than usual tonight as Bartow wanted some height and length in the game.