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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: The Oregon Comeback Tradition Continues

When UCLA plays Oregon, the first halves really does not matter. UCLA comes back from 19 down to win 90-83.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at UCLA
Jaylen Hands was hitting these shots in the second half
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Men’s basketball games between the UCLA Bruins and the Oregon Ducks are getting crazy. If you only have a time to watch half a game, Oregon-UCLA is the best time to not watch the first half. Ben Bolch of the LA Times writes:

But as the Ducks learned once again, no lead is safe in this rivalry.

Two seasons ago, UCLA lost an eight-point lead in the final 312 minutes of a loss at Oregon and the Ducks squandered a 19-point lead in a loss at Pauley Pavilion.

Last season, Oregon nearly lost all of an 18-point lead in a home victory over the Bruins, who had a chance to tie it in the final minute. UCLA completed an improbable comeback this season in Eugene, wiping out a 17-point deficit that was still nine points with 51 seconds left in an eventual overtime triumph.

UCLA’s comeback Saturday started with the Bruins down by 15 and less than 15 minutes to play. Reserve forward Alex Olesinski sparked UCLA’s 17-0 run with a layup. Hands scored 11 of the next 13 points, including three three-three pointers in a span of 85 seconds, to pull the Bruins into a 53-53 tie.

This is getting ridiculous. The first game was, arguably, the most important as UCLA led by Lonzo Ball was undefeated at the time, but this is a pretty amazing streak.

Why did it happen this time? Let’s start with the Oregon side. For those of you who hate Bill Walton and his meanderings that sound like he is sharing his “pipe” in his teepee, he pointed out early in the second half that Oregon was in trouble as they were slowing things down too much. He also pointed out the difference in the teams. He pointed out that he watched Oregon warm up and they were intense and focused. UCLA was standing around shooting. Walton accurately predicted the first and the second half. That is the thing about Walton: there is brilliance amid the babble much more so than UCLA hater Doug Gottlieb or clueless cliches of Steve Lavin.

Second, there was what the very good but ethically challenged coach Dana Altman in the Oregonian:

Dana Altman repeatedly cited UCLA’s 12 points off Oregon’s six second-half turnovers, 16 second-chance points after the break and the Bruins’ outrageous display from behind the arc as the pitfalls for the Ducks.

Third, there was the change in defense. Murry Bartow changed the defense to a 3-2 instead of a 2-3. A little from Murry on that:

And I thought Alex [Olesinski] – Alex is just a really solid player, a veteran player, knows how to be in the right spot, make the right play at the right time. I thought a lot of that second half, it was Alex and Jalen on the back line of that 3-2 [zone]. Pretty effective.

As I mentioned last time, I defy anyone to figure out Murry Bartow’s rotations. UCLA went most of the second half with a lineup of Jaylen Hands at point, Jules Bernard at 2 (and top of the zone), Kris Wilkes at 3, Alex Olesinski at power forward and Jalen Hill at Center. Are you kidding me? Keep in mind that Chris Smith hit the game winner the last game and Hill played 1 minute. There are two ways to look at this. Before the game, in the pregame interview Bartow mentioned he was going to play Alex more but also said it was going to be tough to find minutes for Hill. So, either Bartow is brilliantly adapting his substitution patterns to the flow of the game or he is clueless. Let’s let Bartow describe his rotations:

And then, second half, we played about as well as we can play. Obviously, Jaylen Hands was spectacular. Kris Wilkes, I thought, was really, really good. Jules Bernard is Jules Bernard. I don’t love any player more on this team than I love Jules because he’s just an incredible competitor. So we stuck with the five that we were going with and I want to give incredible props to Jalen Hill. Jalen Hill, in the last game, had a minute or two and was obviously very frustrated. Tonight, we don’t have any chance to win this game without the production he gave us. Second half, we went to more of a 3-2 zone as opposed to the 2-3 and when Moses [Brown] is out, the 3-2 gives us a better look. I thought Jalen Hill was incredible. It was a great win. The crowd was incredible and really got behind the team and the energy.

The Daily Bruin’s Sam Connon describes the crowd this way:

With 13:25 left in the game, Pauley Pavilion got loud.

There wasn’t really a reason why – the Bruins were down by nine and hadn’t been able to stop the Ducks all night.

But then, Oregon picked up a shot clock violation amid the noise, and the building got even louder.

Riding the crowd’s newfound energy, UCLA men’s basketball (15-13, 8-7 Pac-12) put together a 17-0 run and – after being down by as much as 19 – beat Oregon (15-12, 6-8) by a score of 90-83. Sophomore guard Jaylen Hands didn’t register a single point in the first half, but he went 7-of-8 from 3 in the second to finish with 27 points and nine assists.

We started with history. So, let’s end with history of a different kind. As important as the crowd, the 3-2 defense, the lineup and other factors were, the key to the second half was Jaylen Hands. For the second time on an ESPN game, Jaylen Hands took a game over by himself. Thuc Nhi Ngyuen reports:

Kris Wilkes walked across the huddle and slapped Jaylen Hands on the left arm during a timeout. Pauley Pavilion roared. Hands, who had just made his third straight 3-pointer, just smiled and shook his head. . . .

The 6-foot-3 point guard turned into a 3-point inferno in the second half, leading UCLA back from a 19-point second-half deficit to win 90-83 against Oregon on Saturday. . . .

Hands scored all 27 of his points Saturday in the second half, sinking 7-of-8 shots from 3-point range after the break to move the Bruins (15-13, 8-7 Pac-12) into a tie for fifth place in the Pac-12 with USC. The rivals play each other Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. . . .

Hands had a similar barrage last year against Arizona, sinking three 3-pointers in succession that propelled the Bruins to a road win at McKale Center. But the sophomore admitted the zone he entered Saturday was “a little different.”

Murry Bartow explains it was all Jaylen:

on if he has ever seen a player score 27 points in a half of a college game

“I don’t know, I don’t know. Wasn’t any magical sets we were running. He just made some incredible shots with some incredible plays. He’s a very gifted guy. He’s got incredible speed. He’s got incredible athleticism. He’s got NBA speed and he can make shots and he can get to the rim. I’m on him a lot defensively; I want him to be better at that end. But offensively, I think he’s been really good for the most part the whole Pac-12 season. And then tonight, he made some incredible shots and incredible plays.”

Thank you, Jaylen.

Go Bruins! Beat Southern Cal.