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Short-handed UCLA basketball falls to Oregon despite late-game heroics

Freshman guard Bryce Alford, who scored a career-high 31 points against the Ducks, walks off the court following an 87-83 loss to Oregon in double overtime. (Tim Bradbury/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Andrew Erickson

Feb. 28, 2014 1:03 a.m.

Moments before UCLA basketball took the floor Thursday night, the biggest jeers facing the Bruins came neither from Oregon’s basketball players nor the Duck faithful scattered throughout Pauley Pavilion.

No, it was UCLA’s pregame DJ that pointed out the elephant in the room and practically pulled on its trunk, playing Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two.”

“It takes two to make a thing go right,” the 1988 rap classic echoed throughout the building. “It takes two to make it outta sight.”

Things didn’t go right for an overwhelming majority of UCLA’s 87-83 loss to Oregon, and it was because of two: Sophomore guard Jordan Adams and sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson, suspended Thursday afternoon for a violation of team rules. The eight players who did play, however, scratched, clawed and fought for all 50 minutes of the double-overtime heartbreaker.

“I’ll just tell you what I told my team,” said coach Steve Alford. “Regardless of what the adversity is, whether it’s injury, sickness, today having two guys out, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of a basketball team just in a regular–season game.”

Though Adams and Anderson didn’t touch the floor, the duo was by no means out of sight. They sat in gray sweats and black UCLA polo shirts, attempting to clap their team through one of its worst early-shooting performances of the season.

In their place, two freshmen, guards Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford, notched their first career starts. Though the new two led the Bruins in first-half scoring, UCLA’s first-half offensive showing appeared to be sopping behind the ears. The Bruins shot just 30.8 percent and allowed the Ducks to convert six of their 12 three-point attempts.

Early in the second half, the Ducks nearly made the Bruins reach their quacking point. UCLA trailed by as many as 15 with 19:02 to play and struggled to keep things close right up until the final minutes of the game.

After all, the Bruins had had the heart of their scoring presence – a combined 32.1 points per game – ripped out of their starting lineup.

But by no means did UCLA lack heart.

The Bruins were counted out when their first-half shooting very much resembled that of an over-confident middle schooler’s. They were counted out when Jason Calliste nailed a 3-pointer to put Oregon up five with 1:42 to play. Many Pauley Pavilion patrons even counted themselves out, heading for the exits when UCLA called a timeout down seven with just 58 seconds to go.

The team’s saving grace was Alford, who scored 11 points in the closing 3:02, including a clutch three-point jumper with six seconds left. The freshman exploded for a career-high 31 points, 22 coming after the first half.

Alford’s miraculous showing, however, was upstaged by a miracle, a three-point buzzer beater from redshirt senior forward David Wear, who somehow managed to slip past the Oregon defense and line up his final prayer from the near edge of the half-court logo to send the Bruins into overtime, the game tied at 71.

“I just started running down the court and I realized no one was picking me up so I looked back at (redshirt senior forward Travis Wear) and we made eye contact,” Wear said. “He saw me wide open, so I knew it was coming.”

But after two overtimes, short-handed UCLA (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12) was short of breath. The Bruins ran out of gas and magic alike. Oregon (19-8, 7-8) sank its final six free-throw attempts, and all UCLA had for its efforts was spent energy.

“I think we were all tired,” said Alford, who logged 49 minutes. “You get into a double-overtime game in a seven-man rotation you’re going to be tired, but we fought through it and we did as much as we could to try to win the game.”

Several months into his UCLA career, cries of nepotism toward Bryce Alford became Thursday’s fan favoritism. Failed by two of his teammates, Alford nearly made things go right.

Find more photos from the game here.

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Andrew Erickson | Editor in chief
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