Eugene, OR – The Oregon Ducks gave up late leads in losses to Arizona and USC in their prior two games. It didn’t look like they would need to worry about that in tonight’s match-up with UCLA as they took an 18-point lead early in the second half and still held an 11-point lead with 2:55 remaining.
However that wasn’t the case as UCLA came storming back helped by three-pointers by Alex Olesinski and Kris Wilkes. Wilkes’ 3 with 2:10 left cut the lead to 88-85. After a missed three from the Ducks’ Elijah Brown and a turnover by Payton Pritchard, Aaron Holiday’s lay-up brought UCLA to within 88-87. After two free throws from Troy Brown, Thomas Welch had a chance to tie the game for UCLA but missed a three-pointer. At that point the Ducks ran the 30-second shot clock down without getting off a shot. UCLA had the ball with 12 seconds left, From there, Oregon elected to foul UCLA to prevent them from attempting a tying three-pointer. UCLA responded by fouling Oregon immediately. In the closing seconds both teams made four free throws. UCLA’s last gasp came with 1.8 seconds remaining. Holiday had enough time to try a three-pointer from half-court. The shot looked eerily similar to Boise State’s game-winning three-pointer earlier in the season at Matthew Knight Arena. However this time the shot hit the back rim, bounced out and Oregon escaped with a 94-91 victory. As Oregon freshman Victor Bailey Jr, said after the game “I almost fainted a little bit”.
Oregon came out tonight with energy and were extremely efficient on offense. They ended the first half with a 52-38 lead committing zero turnovers and assisting on 14 baskets. It was sort of a coming out party for freshman, Bailey Jr. He scored 15 points in 15 minutes of play, making 5-of-6 shots including 3-of-3 on three-pointers. Senior MiKyle McIntosh was also efficient in making 5-of-6 first half shots. Oregon shot 55.6 percent in the half. The wheels starting coming off for the Ducks in the second half as they committed nine turnovers helping the Bruins get back into the game.
UCLA also stepped it up shooting from deep, connecting on 8-of-16 three-point attempts. The 6-8 freshman Wilkes was a big factor. He made three shots from distance and added 16 second-half points to his team-high of 21. Wilkes, with some added strength, is a prototypical NBA “2” guard. He’s tall, long and smooth with the ability to score from all three levels. Luckily for Oregon, Holiday didn’t have his best game. He sat the last eight minutes of the first half after picking up his third foul and never got his offensive game going. He finished with 14 points on 1-of-6 from deep to go along with five assists and four turnovers. The 7-0 Welch was solid with 17 points and ten rebounds.
For the Ducks, Bailey finished with 18 points. He brings athleticism and energy to the off-guard position. We’d expect to see his court time increase if Elijah Brown (1-of-8 on 3s tonight) continues his inconsistent play. McIntosh continued his solid recent effort adding 18 points and eight rebounds. Troy Brown Jr. has been in a funk lately, disappearing on offense while only grabbing one rebound against USC. He was more aggressive tonight and was an important factor in Oregon’s offensive efficiency. He ended the game with 17 points six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Pritchard led Oregon with a game-high 25 points, hitting 5-of-8 from deep, with four assists, four rebounds, three steals and only one turnover.
Oregon is off until next Saturday when they return home to try to get even against Oregon State after losing in Corvallis two weeks ago.
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