Injuries or no injuries, when you’re up 17 with seven to play and 10 with less than two minutes to go, Oregon needs to figure out how to win games like this.
Instead, the Ducks snatched a loss out of the jaws of victory and let UCLA come back to tie the game 80-80 at the end of regulation and then to win 87-84 in overtime.
With the devastating loss, Oregon fell to 9-6 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play. The Bruins, despite watching their coach Steve Alford get fired at the end of December, improved to 10-6 overall and 3-0 in conference play.
Even with the 17-point lead, Oregon had a 72-62 lead with 1:45 left. UCLA then suddenly found their three-point stroke at the worst possible time for the Ducks.
Chris Smith hit a three from the left wing to make it 72-65 and Jules Bernard nailed a three to make it 74-68 with 50.7 seconds to play. After Payton Pritchard made two free throws, Jaylen Hands hit a long range shot from up top to make it 76-71 with 39.5 left.
After Oregon turned the ball over on UCLA’s press, the Bruins made it a one-possession game when Hands was fouled as he was shooting a three with 33 seconds left. Hands managed to convert all three free throws and all of a sudden, it was a 76-74 game.
Victor Bailey, Jr. came through with two more free throws with 22 seconds remaining, but after a missed shot and a scramble, Prince Ali made a three from the right corner with just 3.2 to go.
Pritchard hit two clutch free throws for the three-point lead and Altman decided to foul instead of watching UCLA shoot a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Bruins were just 12-25 from the line at that point.
Hands hit the first shot, but intentional missed the second hoping that his team gets a rebound basket to tie.
And that exactly what happened.
Smith used his length to reach over Paul White to tip the ball in with 0.7 to go. Worse that that, he was also fouled and the Bruins could have easily won the game in regulation. But Smith missed the foul shot and the two teams had to play five more minutes.
Despite the adversity of the last 90 seconds, Oregon was able to rebound and score the first four points of the overtime period to go up 84-80 with 3:02 to go.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, they would go scoreless for the remainder of the game. UCLA finished the game on a 7-0 run to win its first game in Eugene since 2014.
Louis King led the Ducks with a career-high 22 points and Bailey, Jr. added 20. White scored 16 and Will Richardson managed 11. But Oregon was just 8-of-32 from long range and a killer 14-of-24 (58 percent) from the free throw line.
Oregon did score 32 points off of a whopping 23 Bruin turnovers.
Somehow the Ducks will have to shake this off and prepare to play a USC team that will also be coming off a tough overtime loss in Corvallis.
~ Don Smalley