Los Angeles, CA – The Oregon Ducks traveled to Westwood to play the No. 3-ranked UCLA Bruins in their first match-up of the season. Pauley Pavilion saw limited attendance due to COVID, so both teams needed to manufacture energy themselves. Oregon has had a shaky beginning to the start of this 2021-2022 year but entered Thursday night with three consecutive victories and have been looking more cohesive as a unit in the past few games. Meanwhile, UCLA and Mick Cronin have been trying to get themselves back in a consistent rhythm after being shut down for almost a month due to COVID. The Bruins had a conference win in Berkeley since the pause and now look to pick up a win over a much-improved Oregon squad needing a boost to their tournament resume.
The play from Rutgers transfer Jacob Young proved to be the deciding factor in this one, especially late, as he willed his Ducks team with a season high 23 points and a 84-81 overtime win over the Bruins.
It was clear from the opening tip that Oregon wanted to push the ball whenever UCLA missed a shot. Oregon Head Coach Dana Altman wanted his team to limit halfcourt possessions to start on offense and didn’t want the Bruins to get settled in their stifling man defense. On the flip side, the Ducks implored a full court press to disrupt UCLA’s timing on offense after UCLA jumped out to a 14-6 lead within the first six minutes of action. Oregon received nice production from center N’Faly Dante, who scored nine points in the first half and did it over the shot blocking presence of UCLA’s big man Myles Johnson.
UCLA had a tough time holding on to the ball in the half, turning it over nine times. This was mostly due to the good overall team defense that Oregon was playing. They emphasized switching and recovering on the weak side, displaying nice communication on that end of the court. The Bruins were able to break the full court press and Johnny Juzang, who led UCLA with 23 points and nine rebounds, seemed to find his shot, knocking down mid-range jumpers off the dribble. From there, UCLA took a five-point advantage over the Ducks, leading 35-30 at the half.
While Oregon was effective inside in the first half, scoring 16 points in the paint and securing seven offensive boards, they had to pick it up from 3-point territory if they were going to get the upset win. The Ducks shot (1-of-9) on 3s in the first 20 minutes, but came out aggressive in the second half, connecting on four 3-pointers within the first few minutes. The Ducks outscored the Bruins 14-2, with a 9-0 run led by the play from Young and Eric Williams Jr., who hit two of those 3s. After Oregon seemingly couldn’t miss to start out, UCLA remained calm and found their offensive stride again with senior guard Tyger Campbell instrumental in getting his group back into it. UCLA also received valuable time from raw NBA prospect, Peyton Watson, who saw the court for 21 minutes, using his length to disrupt the Ducks and secure eight rebounds and two blocks. His 3-point shot cut the Bruins deficit down and they went on a 7-0 run, to get within 46-44.
The two teams traded baskets for the rest of the second half, neither team giving an inch when the other appeared to gain momentum. This was the stretch of the game where Young took over in isolation from the top of the key, hitting mid-range pull up jumpers at the end of the shot clock on multiple possessions. He not only gave the Ducks an edge on the scoreboard, but he supplied energy as the bench fed off each shot that he made. That confidence from him translated into his fellow guard, Will Richardson, who also became more aggressive attacking the hoop and even grabbed a key offensive board and got fouled. The pair of free throws from the veteran guard gave Oregon the 73-67 lead with 45 seconds remaining. At this point, it looked as if Altman and crew would survive in regulation, but they fouled Juzang for two shots and then coughed it up on consecutive possessions. The sloppy passes led to four easy points from UCLA with a Jaylen Clark layup tying the game at 73. A Richardson three-pointer missed on the last possession and the game headed to overtime.
Both teams were hot to start the overtime period. Juzang and Young traded tough baskets, but Oregon tightened down defensively in the last minutes of extra time and continued to rely on the play-making ability of Young and Richardson. The game was ultimately won by the Ducks when Young hit a final shot-clock dagger with 20 seconds left. Oregon was able to hold on and picked up their fourth straight win.
The win for Oregon gave Dana Altman his 700th career win and puts him up in the company of a select few who have achieved this milestone. In addition to Young, Richardson finished the night with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting. For UCLA, Bernard had 13 points, but had a rough shooting night, going 3-of-13. They also would have liked more production from the hardworking Jaime Jaquez (13 ppg), who disappeared for most of this game and only scored four points, missing on two key late free throws.
Oregon (10-6, 3-2) heads across town over to play USC and look to pick up another signature win. UCLA (10-2, 2-1) will host struggling Oregon State on Saturday and will look to get back to their winning ways.