UCLA men’s basketball turns over early lead in 8-point loss to Oregon
Junior guard Jules Bernard scored a career-high 23 points Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough as UCLA men’s basketball lost to Oregon, dropping its second consecutive game.
(Andy Bao/Daily Bruin staff)
By Jon Christon
March 3, 2021 8:29 p.m.
The Bruins entered Wednesday’s game with sole possession of first place in the Pac-12.
They left with shared possession of second.
UCLA men’s basketball (17-7, 13-5 Pac-12) fell to Oregon (18-5, 13-4) by a score of 82-74. With the loss, the Bruins move half a game below the Ducks in the conference standings with only one game left in the regular season.
“Games like this tell you where you’re at, so I’m going to give you the true side of it,” said coach Mick Cronin. “Games like this send a message to me about where we’re at versus where I want to be. So it exposes your weaknesses, tells you what you have to practice and as a coach it tells you where you’re at from a personnel standpoint.”
The loss comes in one of UCLA’s best shooting games of the season, as the Bruins shot over 55% from the field, tied for their second-best shooting performance of the season. Junior guard Jules Bernard also put up a career-high 23 points but failed to score in the final 13 minutes of the game.
After enjoying a halftime lead and leading by as many as nine in the second half, UCLA was outscored 25-14 in the final nine minutes. The Bruins turned the ball over 12 times while allowing 45 points in the second half alone.
Bernard said the team tried to slow the pace in the second half, but struggled with the Ducks’ press.
“We wanted to sort of slow down in the second half and sort of get settled, and get organized,” Bernard said. “But I think what really hurt us was whenever they (started) pressing and getting riled up. I don’t know. We just had too many turnovers, and I think that hurt us the most.”
In the first half, the Bruins jumped out to an early lead as both teams shot over 50% from the field.
Despite each team only playing one player above 6-foot-9, it was a battle of the paint in the first half. While Oregon outrebounded UCLA 13-12, the Bruins had a 30-14 scoring advantage in the paint and shot 15-of-20 inside the arc. The second half again was a different story, as Oregon outscored UCLA 26-12 in the paint while getting to the line 14 times compared to the Bruins’ six.
Bernard led the way for UCLA in the first half, making his first six shots en route to a 15-point, 7-of-8 scoring performance while playing the entirety of the first 20 minutes.
As a team, the Bruins had just two turnovers in the first half.
“As a team, we were playing with confidence (in the first half), and we were playing calm – when they were in their press, we were relaxed and we got the ball up the court and we didn’t turn the ball over,” Bernard said. “Our coaches, all of them, say, ‘When we don’t turn the ball over, we can put enough points on to win the game.’”
Bernard picked up right where he left off to open the second half, drilling a 3-pointer to extend UCLA’s lead to five with 18:52 left in the game. After a 7-0 Oregon run to take back the lead, the Bruins went on a 12-1 run – with five points coming from Bernard – to go up nine. During this stretch, UCLA held Oregon without a field goal for over four minutes.
The Ducks, however, responded with a run of their own, chipping the Bruins’ nine-point advantage to just three before the under-eight media timeout.
Cronin said Oregon’s success in the stretch run was a result of its experienced roster. The Ducks have six seniors compared to the Bruins’ zero active ones.
“It takes a tremendous amount of toughness to beat a team like that … without any seniors on this team,” Cronin said. “When the game gets to an intensity level on both ends is when you’re going to find out who’s going to win. I’ve done this a lot, I’ve been in this before and you know why you don’t win.”
After a steal and another UCLA turnover with 6:08 left to play, a fast break dunk by Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi put the Ducks ahead after trailing the majority of the second half. The Ducks would never relinquish the lead.
With the loss, UCLA no longer controls its own destiny in the conference, but will match up against crosstown rival USC on Saturday with an outside chance of taking home the Pac-12 regular-season crown.
Sophomore guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. said he is sure his team will be able to recover with limited time left in the season.
“I’m extremely confident in our team,” Jaquez said. “We made it this far in the season. We still believe in each other no matter what happens, whether we lose or whether we win. We’re a really tight group and I have the utmost confidence that we will bounce back from this.”