Having been forced to carry on without their second leading scorer and best foul shooter in Jordan Adams, the UCLA Bruins actually began the Pacific-12 Tournament Championship Game against the Oregon Ducks on a strong note as they scored 12 of the game’s first 16 points.
Then the 3rd-seeded Ducks, who according to coach Dana Altman were using a ten-man rotation, realized that UCLA was only playing six guys and reacted accordingly, wearing the depleted Bruins down and frustrating coach Ben Howland to the point where he drew a technical foul for tossing his sport jacket into the stands late in the first half.
“I deserved a technical foul…I behaved poorly,” Howland apologetically said after the game.
As for the game, although top-seeded UCLA gave a good effort and didn’t exactly get blown out of the water, their largest deficit being 11 points, Oregon used Carlos Emory’s game-high 20 points and tournament MVP Johnathan Loyd’s 19 points – both players coming off the bench – to power the Ducks to the Pac-12 Tournament title in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, 78-69, earning the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament before 11,101 fans, many of whom seemed happy to see the Bruins fall.
Not that spots in the Big Dance were on the line as both teams were a lock for the Tourney anyway, but this loss by Pac-12 regular season champ UCLA, combined with Adams’ broken foot, will likely affect their tournament seeding and what region they will end up in as the Bruins will probably be shipped out of the West Regional.
“We stayed in the game by hitting a couple of shots, but it was tough…” forward David Wear commented afterwards.
All five Bruin starters scored in double figures against the Ducks, led by Shabazz Muhammad and Larry Drew II’s 14 points. David’s brother Travis led the team with seven rebounds to go with his 13 points, but it’s safe to say that he shot poorly as he made a mere four of his 12 shots.
Kyle Anderson contributed 11 points, and Norman Powell did his best in trying to fill Adams’ shoes as he played 37 of the game’s 40 minutes, making half of his shots and ending up with ten points for his efforts.
The two stats that stood out on Saturday were the nine-point halftime deficit that UCLA was ultimately too short-handed to overcome, and the fact that the Bruins shot a terrible 59.1% from the free throw line, helping Oregon to win the game in that sense.
Oh yeah, with the Ducks’ size advantage, they had no problem outrebounding Howland’s team by the same margin as the final score – nine – as they beat the Bruins on the boards 37-28.
What was as disappointing as anything else was that Tony Parker, as usual, was neglected by Howland as he managed a basket in four minutes of work.
Even if he wasn’t effective enough to make a significant contribution against Oregon, Parker should still have been given a lot more time on the floor to create that size presence as he is the only true center on the team; the Bruins certainly would not have fared any worse with that big man in there.
After all, the only way a player can improve in any sport is to play, so at the end of the day it is questionable if Howland was treating Parker fairly.
Especially in a situation where he was one of only seven players available.
Now that the conference tournament is behind UCLA, there’s nothing left to do but wait and see when their name will be called on Selection Sunday.
Then they can move forward and see if they can win at least one game – go into the second weekend really – without one of their key players; obviously speaking, it will be extremely tough.
A preview of the Bruins in the NCAA Tournament - the region they are in, what seeding they were given, and their first opponent – will appear on this site very soon.
NCAA Tournament – Opponent, place, day, date, and time TBA