It was Senior Night at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, and there were flashbulbs and smiles and banners all around.
There were handshakes and hugs, flowers for the moms, pats on the back for the dads.
Oh, it was Senior Night all right.
Except the senior who starred was Tajuan Porter, Oregon’s point guard, and the Ducks held off a late UCLA charge to win, 70-68, their first season sweep of the Bruins since 2002-03.
Porter came into the game on a 14-for-57 cold streak, reaching double digits for the first time in seven games with a 15-point performance in a 54-44 win over USC on Thursday.
That was only a preview.
Oregon’s diminutive guard had 29 points, including the dagger, a 23-foot 3-pointer – one of seven on the day – with 49 seconds left to break a tie game.
“We just offset their zone,” Porter said. “(UCLA had) four up top – they played a 2-3 zone, so they had to bring the forwards up – so we ball-screened, Malcolm (Armstead) came off and made a couple plays, I made a couple plays. We had them on their heels. They didn’t know what to do.”
UCLA’s confusion continued into the second half, as the Ducks (14-14, 6-10)continued to find cracks in the Bruins’ armor, penetrating with ease as they built their lead to 14 with just over 15 minutes remaining.
The Bruins pecked away, stuck around a 10-point deficit until the eight-minute mark, when they made their move.
A 10-point hole became eight, seven, five, four and finally zero with just more than five minutes to play, a 13-3 run spurred by better perimeter defense and smarter offensive movement.
“We knew what they were doing … in the second half, we were rotating well and picking up the open man,” said freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt, who had just four points but added 13 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. “Getting rebounds, contesting shots and coming back down on the other ends and scoring.”
After UCLA (13-15, 8-8) tied the score, though, the Bruins tightened up, needing to score, rather than just working within the offense.
The result? Three crucial turnovers, including two by point guard Jerime Anderson, and a hastened 3-point attempt by senior guard Michael Roll early in an important possession that rimmed out.
The shot could be forgiven: Roll was UCLA’s best scorer on Saturday, finishing with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including six threes.
“That shot was early in the possession, and coach says you do want to be patient in that situation, but sometimes, you’ve got your horse and you ride him,” senior guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid said. “I trust his decision-making, and I like that shot. He was really feeling it, the momentum was there. I thought it was in.”
The turnovers, though…
“It was about getting mentally sped up instead of keeping composure,” said Lee, who had four turnovers. “But mental also starts leading to physical. If you’re brain is going 100 miles per hour, most likely the body is going faster than it usually does. We just got anxious.”
If anyone is getting anxious now, it’s UCLA.
The Bruins are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2003-04, Ben Howland’s first season as head coach. They’ll need to sweep the Arizona schools next week to finish the regular season at .500 and then win at least one game in the Pac-10 Tournament to even become eligible for the postseason.
“In past years, when we’ve made comebacks like that, we always found a way to win,” Abdul-Hamid said. “That’s what makes great teams – little bounces your way. It’s all a maturity thing. Hopefully, eventually, those are going to be the kind of games that will put us back where we belong.”