EUGENE, Ore. “”mdash; UCLA is a basketball school.
Oregon is a football school.
For one half of basketball at Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday, those titles held true. Leave it to Oregon’s football team to erase UCLA’s 13-point halftime lead without playing a snap to send the Bruins home as 75-68 losers, the first time they have lost both games in Oregon since 2004.
UCLA opened the game with one of its best halves of basketball this season, at one point mounting a 15-point advantage that was backed by improved defense. As each basketball team entered the locker room, out came the Rose Bowl champion Oregon football team to the delight of the 10,830 delirious Duck fans in attendance.
“Their crowd was really into it,” senior guard Lazeric Jones said.
As each image from the Pac-12 football deities’ Rose Bowl win flashed across “Knight Vision,” the fans’ cheers ““ mingled with quacks ““ ratcheted up. The arena grew louder at halftime than it had at any point in the first half when the basketball team shot a dismal 22.6 percent from the field.
As the football team walked off the floor and its basketball counterparts returned, there was a renewed sense of energy in the air and on the court for the Ducks. Oregon (15-5, 6-2 Pac-12) opened the second half on a 13-0 run.
“Their intensity level went up a little bit and we could sense it,” redshirt sophomore forward Travis Wear said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop it.”
The run was capped by a rare four-point play from Oregon guard Garrett Sim as he drained a 3-pointer and was fouled by UCLA senior guard Jerime Anderson, sending the arena into a frenzy that nearly equaled the ovation for the football team.
“I was just trying to close out as quick as I could,” Anderson said. “I only hit him on the hand. It wasn’t that serious, but the (referee) thought it was a foul. Sometimes it goes that way.”
Feeding off that intensity, the Ducks proceeded to use pressure defense, eventually resulting in 12 UCLA turnovers.
“I thought we played really well in the first half, and it’s just really disappointing the way we came out at the start of the second half,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We’ve got to be mentally tougher.”
“We were getting whatever we wanted on offense in the first half,” Travis Wear added. “If we just settled down and carried that over, we would have fared a lot better.”
UCLA (10-9, 3-4) would counter with a 13-3 run of its own to hang on to a narrowing lead but the tide had already turned.
“We knew they were going to come out with a lot more intensity in the second half,” Travis Wear said. “We knew what they were going to do but we hurried a little bit on offense and gave them second-chance opportunities.”
Oregon forward E.J. Singler finished with a career-high 26 points, highlighted by an impressive display of free throw shooting that saw him shoot 16-for-17 at the stripe.
While Oregon shot 87.5 percent from the line, only missing four free throws all game, UCLA was 10-for-21, a statistic that Howland pointed to as a potential reason for the loss.
“The foul shooting really hurt us today,” Howland said. “It’s really unexpected. We had opportunities to be up by more. We were just a little rushed.”
UCLA improved defensive effort in the first half was all for naught as it reverted back to sloppy defensive habits that allowed Oregon State to hurt it two nights prior.
Offensively, the Bruins were led by Travis Wear, who finished with 17 points and Jones who had 14. Sophomore center Joshua Smith continued to struggle on both ends of the floor, finishing with just six points, four turnovers and four fouls in 12 minutes of action.
Redshirt sophomore forward David Wear left the second half of Saturday’s game with a hyper-extended left knee. He was walking after the game and said he doesn’t anticipate missing major minutes because of it.