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UCLA men’s basketball bounces back to beat Oregon after losing double-digit lead

Sophomore guard Dylan Andrews takes a shot. Andrews’ 21 points was one shy of his season high.(Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff)

Men’s Basketball


Oregon63
UCLA71

By Jack Nelson

Feb. 3, 2024 10:14 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 4 at 11:17 p.m.

A scalding start had devolved into a deficit. Just like that, they had done it again.

As the Bruins trotted back to the locker room after the half, deja vu hung over them. They again faced the possibility of a once-comfortable lead turning into crushing defeat.

But on this particular evening in Westwood, redemption reigned.

Surviving a blown double-digit lead, UCLA men’s basketball (11-11, 6-5 Pac-12) escaped Oregon (15-7, 7-4) with a 71-63 score on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. An 18-point Bruin lead midway through the first half whittled all the way down to a one-point deficit by the end of the half, but the team fought off the Ducks down the stretch, pulling its record back to even on the season.

Late last month, UCLA allowed a 19-point lead to fall against Arizona but failed to recover en route to the loss.

“We were more calm,” said freshman guard Sebastian Mack. “We just went, in practice, we went over it – we have to be calm and relaxed to come together as a team, and we’ll be able to.”

UCLA bolted out of the gates riding the three ball – an uncommon source for one of the country’s worst 3-point shooting teams. Mack and sophomore guard Dylan Andrews opened the squad’s scoring with a pair of threes, and the former led the offensive charge from there, turning in seven of the Bruins’ first 10 points.

The Ducks – stuck in traffic before tipoff and ultimately forcing a delayed start to the contest – seemed to have left their offense behind. It was just before the 10-minute mark in the first half when they cracked double digits on the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, the Bruin offense explored its options and kept finding answers, establishing a midrange and interior presence to support its 3-for-3 start from beyond the arc. A pair of free throws from freshman forward Berke Buyuktuncel pushed an early lead to 23-5.

“That’s what we needed, just coming out with a dog mentality,” Mack said. “Trickled down to the end of the game, and I feel like just off that and us playing together as a unit that’s what really got us to this point with the win.”

But that would prove to be the peak. 

The descent followed.

The Ducks came alive as the Bruins tumbled. A 2-for-8 start from the field gave way to two layups and their first 3-pointer of the evening, slimming the gap to 26-16.

Foul trouble for UCLA’s key contributors only worsened the fall. Mack and sophomore forward/center Adem Bona racked up two personals apiece, and coach Mick Cronin sentenced both to the bench before the first half had wrapped. Mack was subbed out with just over 14 minutes remaining and Bona joined him nine later.

Freshman guard Sebastian Mack follows through on a shot as the ball heads toward the basket. Mack had seven of the Bruins’ first 10 points en route to 16 on the night. (Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff)

Guard Jadrian Tracey emerged in their absence. He rattled off three consecutive 3-pointers on three straight Oregon possessions, bringing his team to 31-29. It was another bucket from deep, this time from guard Kario Oquendo, that put the Ducks out front en route to a 34-33 halftime lead.

“A big part of our game plan, they’re shooting 42% in the Pac-12 from the 3-point line, making 9.8 a game, so I was unhappy with the fact that we started letting them make threes,” Cronin said. “We won the game because they only made one in the second half.”

What went into the locker room as a game of runs returned as a back-and-forth affair.

Both teams found the net with ease coming out of the break, with UCLA and Oregon each making five of their first six shots. But after trading blows, it was the Bruins who earned themselves some space to breathe.

Andrews – who delivered eight points on 3-for-7 shooting in the first frame – found his form in the second half. He sank six of nine shot attempts, going on to finish with 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting.

He rediscovered his early-game magic from beyond the arc when it was needed most, drilling a 3-pointer to give the Bruins a 67-61 lead.

“It was good to see the ball go into the basket, of course, but I feel like our whole team was more focused on getting stops and just finishing possessions, getting defensive rebounding,” Andrews said. “Whatever happens on offense, make sure we capitalize on this because we just got a stop.” 

A sea of triumphantly raised hands washed through the stands immediately following Andrews’ dagger. 

It evolved into a standing ovation that held until the end, celebrating a team redeemed.

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Jack Nelson | Sports senior staff
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
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