UCLA men’s basketball picks up first win against Oregon since 2019
Freshman guard Amari Bailey blocks a shot in transition in No. 21 UCLA men’s basketball’s win over Oregon on Sunday afternoon. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)
|No. 21 UCLA||65|
By Jon Christon
Dec. 4, 2022 4:28 p.m.
This post was updated Dec. 4 at 5:34 p.m.
The Bruins had not beaten the Ducks in three years entering Sunday.
But freshman guard Amari Bailey, playing in his first game against UCLA’s Pacific Northwest rivals, didn’t know that.
Behind a number of highlight-crunchtime plays for Bailey, who had a game-high 14 second half points, No. 21 UCLA men’s basketball (7-2, 2-0 Pac-12) took down Oregon (4-5, 1-1) by a score of 65-56 Sunday afternoon in Pauley Pavilion. The win marked the Bruins’ first over the Ducks in the coach Mick Cronin era.
After a back-and-forth second half that featured five lead changes, UCLA found itself up by three points at the game’s final media timeout. And, from that point on, Bailey made sure the Bruins wouldn’t crumble late.
Bailey came out of the timeout and extended the advantage to five on a midrange jumper, and two possessions later, senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. found him for a wide open dunk in transition that sent Pauley Pavilion into a frenzy and put the game out of reach.
“I haven’t felt Pauley erupt like that,” Bailey said. “It was pretty cool.”
But that wasn’t all for the young freshman. He stamped his standout performance with a highlight block on the other end that officially gave UCLA the win.
“Some guys would just let him dunk it, but he was like, ‘I wanna challenge it,’” said junior guard Jaylen Clark. “That’s just him.”
Bailey has now scored in double figures in seven of his first nine games as a Bruin. He also added five rebounds and shot a team-high 7-of-12 from the field.
Cronin said Bailey’s ability to get high-percentage shots is what sets him apart at a young age.
“(It’s) very rare for a young player to understand shot selection,” Cronin said. “He has an unbelievable basketball IQ. … Very few guys get it.”
Though Bailey’s night wasn’t productive early, neither was UCLA’s. The Bruins entered the locker room with their largest halftime deficit of the season at six points. Three Bruin starters were limited in the first half because of foul trouble, with Bailey, Jaquez and freshman forward Adem Bona playing 10 minutes or fewer with two fouls apiece.
“That’s conference basketball,” Cronin said. “You just have to find a way to get a win.”
With 11 different players seeing the floor, the Bruins shot just 30.3% from the field and missed all seven of their 3-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes.
However, on the other end of the floor, UCLA held Oregon to just 27 points and forced nine turnovers.
“Our defense was what really kept us in the game,” Jaquez said. “I knew that our offense was going to come, I wasn’t worried about it.”
Immediately, though, the three foul-ridden Bruins made their presence known after the break to buoy UCLA’s offense. Jaquez scored the frame’s first points on a layup, and after he and Bona forced a live ball turnover on the other end, Jaquez found Bailey for an uncontested dunk in transition.
Back-to-back 3s from junior guard Jaylen Clark and redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell on the ensuing possessions knotted the game 31-31, and a pair of free throws by Clark a possession later gave UCLA its first lead since 4-0.
Clark said UCLA’s increased intensity in the second half was inspired by its four-game losing streak to Oregon.
“I don’t know how many times Oregon has beaten us in a row,” Clark said. “It’s been a long time, so it just came down to … are we going to let another year go by and not beat these guys?”
The advantage bounced between the two teams multiple times after Clark’s free throws, setting the stage for a 3-point game at the final media timeout, after which Bailey took center stage.
Bailey’s late-game heroics highlighted a 10-2 run to close the game for the blue and gold. He scored four points during the stretch, and his block helped UCLA hold its opponent to 1-of-8 shooting to end the contest.
“It’s a nice thing to know you’re going to have explosive plays like that block at the end,” Clark said. “That’s why he’s going to be out of here pretty soon.”