Here’s my story on the UCLA loss to Oregon on Thursday night…
Just as UCLA’s starters legs started to go, Oregon’s reserves had theirs in reserve.
A pair of backup Ducks – sophomore guard Matthew Humphrey and freshman forward E.J. Singler – proved the difference on Thursday night as Oregon defeated the Bruins, 71-66, in overtime in UCLA’s last visit to McArthur Court.
Humphrey had a pair of crucial 3-pointers and eight total points in the extra period and Singler added all eight of his points in overtime as the Bruins slumped at the end.
Were it not for porous 3-point shooting, UCLA would have run away with it.
The Bruins shot 10-for-33 from long range – including 4-of-14 in the second half – as Oregon came back from a huge early deficit.
“I thought most of the threes we took were pretty much open,” said UCLA senior guard Michael Roll, who had 16 points and 4-of-9 3-pointers in a game-high 44 minutes. “There were a few of them at the end of the clock that we had to put up, but I wouldn’t say we forced any out there. That’s just what the zone gave us.”
The Ducks played a paint-clogging 2-3 zone for much of the game, clamping down after UCLA (9-11, 4-4) jumped to a 24-13 lead. Oregon (11-9, 3-5) closed the gap to three going into the halftime break, and held a small lead for much of the second half until Roll tied the game with a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation.
Before giving way to Singler and Humphrey, Ducks guard Tajuan Porter took control early, with nine first-half points.
“I don’t think it was me, it was my teammates – we kind of spread them out in the zone,” Porter said. “Malcolm Armstead got in the driving gaps, he got the ball in the middle and they kicked them out. I got open shots, and I knocked them down early.”
UCLA’s guards, though, could not match Porter’s scoring.
While Roll had 16 points, sophomore Malcolm Lee and junior Mustafa Abdul-Hamid combined for just five, with Lee scoring only two points on 1-of-9 shooting in 37 minutes.
“Playing point guard did take my scoring a little bit, but that’s just all on me – it’s not just the position,” Lee said. “I’ve got to learn when to pick my spots when we need a bucket. I needed to score more in this game.”
Against the Ducks’ aggressive zone defense and full-court trap, Lee simply could not.
There was nowhere to go.
Oregon’s post players – Jamil Wilson, Jeremy Jacob and Michael Dunigan – simply denied the paint, as UCLA forwards James Keefe and Reeves Nelson simply could not find any openings. Keefe made his lone field goal and finished with two points, and Nelson added 11.
“We knew they were going to play that zone, that kind of man-zone like Arizona State,” freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt said. “They haven’t been using it that long, but it was pretty effective. Better than we expected.”
Honeycutt was the lone bright spot for the Bruins, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
But he missed all three of his 3-pointers and Lee missed all five of his.
“I hadn’t even noticed that until right now – when you play against a zone you are forced to take outside shots,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “When you look at the numbers, both Nikola and Mike shot it well from three, and the rest of the guys did not. We need to keep getting the ball inside.”