Oregon fends off No. 12 UCLA for 68-63 win to sweep season series, keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive
Oregon has some tough-to-explain losses on its résumé, but the Ducks sure do get up for big games.
Against No. 12 UCLA on Thursday night, the Ducks went up by double-digits in the second half, saw UCLA climb back into the game, and then roared to a 68-63 finish, securing the season sweep of the Bruins and adding one more bullet to a tournament résumé that’s going to be mighty interesting come Selection Sunday.
“That was a grown man game of basketball,” Oregon guard De’Vion Harmon said after the win. “I’m proud.”
A tight contest through the first 15 or so minutes of the first half, things changed when UCLA’s leading scorer, Johnny Juzang, took off on a fastbreak attempt and was fouled hard driving to the basket. He spun to the ground, colliding with the stanchion under the basket and was forced from the game. He wouldn’t return. In 11 minutes on the court, he’d scored seven points, but from then on UCLA was forced to find shot-making from elsewhere.
And the Duck defense did well to limit the effectiveness of UCLA wings Jaylen Clark and David Singleton. Clark—who’d scored 18 points, 25 points, and 16 points in his last three starts while filling in for injured Bruins—was held to just five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Singleton—22 points in the Feb. 19 win over Washington—had just three points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Oregon’s bigs, N’Faly Dante and Franck Kepnang, held their ground inside as the Ducks forced a higher percentage of UCLA shots from the perimeter than what the Bruins typically go for. UCLA’s not one of the Pac-12’s bombers, but the Bruins threw up 24 triples and only made four of them. Tyger Campbell was 1-for-6. Jules Bernard was 0-for-3.
On the other side, it was the 3-ball that provided Oregon with one of its biggest shots of the night.
Oregon opened the second half on a 13-5 run to build a 48-35 lead with 13:55 to play. Then the Bruins flipped a switch and sapped the momentum from Matthew Knight Arena with a 19-5 scoring advantage over the next eight minutes to take a one-point lead.
Jaime Jaquez Jr., who finished with 10 points in the game, scored eight over that stretch as the Bruins showed a concerted effort to attack the Ducks’ interior.
A quick 6-0 spurt from the Ducks put Oregon back on top by five, but a phenomenal defensive possession that ended with a charge drawn on Jaquez—fouling him out of the game—was followed up immediately by a Duck turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass and an and-one conversion from UCLA forward Cody Riley.
Back to two.
Oregon’s next possession worked the clock. Jacob Young looked for an opening on the right wing and drew a screen from Dante. He took a step inside the 3-point line and surveyed the defense in front of him. With Campbell hung up on the screen and Clark shading just a step too far off Harmon on the left wing, Young kicked it and Harmon stepped into a no-hesitation triple.
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Young came down on the next possession and hit a leaner off the glass and through contact to put the Ducks back up seven and draw a Bruin timeout. UCLA missed a triple on the ensuing possession—they shot 2-for-18 on 3s in the second half—and Young caught the Bruin defense napping at the other end as Eric Williams Jr. snuck backdoor for a lob from Young he slammed home.
Harmon finished with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds. Young added 14 points, six assists, and five boards. Will Richardson and Williams each pitched in 11.
Oregon (18-10, 11-6 Pac-12) needed to beat the Bruins to keep its NCAA tourney hopes alive. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi joined the game broadcast in the second half to say the Ducks needed at least a split against the LA teams at home, a sweep of the Washington teams, and then a lenghty run through the Pac-12 tournament to earn an at-large bid.
But it doesn’t appear the Ducks are interested in just a split.
They’ll shoot for a season sweep of both LA teams on Saturday when the 16th-ranked Trojans come to town for a 7 p.m. PT tipoff on ESPN2. Oregon beat USC in Los Angeles 79-69 on Jan. 15.
The Bruins (20-6, 12-5 Pac-12) face Oregon State on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT on CBS.