There were no huge blowups, but then an outward display of emotion would have required premium effort.
Ben Howland did not race onto the floor in utter disgust. Reeves Nelson did not throw a chair into the Staples Center crowd. Tyler Honeycutt barely even shrugged.
No, seventh-seeded Oregon’s 76-59 win over No.2-seed UCLA in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Tournament featured little hysterics.
Aside from a running, bank 3-pointer by Oregon’s Garrett Sim to beat the first-half buzzer, there was little out of the ordinary.
The better team won.
The only thing surprising?
The better team on Thursday night was the 16-16 Ducks, 0-4 to close the regular season, and not the Bruins, who entered the game on a 13-3 streak.
“Bottom line, it starts right here,” Howland said. “Obviously we did not do a good job of getting our team focused – I did not – focused and understanding. I’m really disappointed in that because we had a lot of opportunity here to help ourselves.”
Focus? With five minutes, 22 seconds left, UCLA was called for a technical foul for having six players on the court, and this after a timeout. Oregon’s E.J. Singler stepped up, hit two free throws as part of a game-high 24-point effort, and the Bruins were called for a shot-clock violation on the ensuing possession.
Understanding? The Ducks back-cut UCLA all game long, flustered the Bruins with their zone defense and denied the post.
By the time Nelson was called for a technical foul for arguing with the referees with 5 minutes, 39 seconds left, the Bruins were out of the game, both emotionally and quite literally.
The Ducks were ahead 64-48, Singler’s two free throws put them up 18, and UCLA slogged to its worst Pac-10 Tournament loss in team history.
“It just started from warm-ups,” said UCLA sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt, who led the Bruins with 19 points. “Guys weren’t taking game shots, weren’t really being focused. Really, they just outplayed us. They were more prepared than we were. They had the mentality that they didn’t have anything to lose. We came in here with a “too cool” attitude.”
The Bruins were cool alright, practically in Dolce & Gabana sunglasses and Armani suits, maybe even cold.
UCLA shot six-for-24 in the first half, unable to get the ball inside to the typically terrific twosome of Nelson and Joshua Smith. Nelson, who was held scoreless at Oregon, went zero-for-three in the first half for zero points, finishing with just seven. Smith had five points in the half on one-for-four shooting and three-of-four free throws, then missed his only two shots of the second half.
Meanwhile, with their guards slicing and dicing into the post, the Ducks owned a 36-22 points-in-the-paint advantage.
“Us as guards, we could’ve stepped up more,” said UCLA junior point guard Lazeric Jones. “They were really doubling our bigs, and we have some really dominant bigs. When they take them out of the game, we have to have others step up.”
Against the ultra-quick Ducks, though, UCLA couldn’t get a first step, or a second. The Bruins were stuck in quicksand.
Jones shot three-for-11 from the field and had three turnovers, junior guard Jerime Anderson went three-for-seven, but one-for-six from the foul line, and junior guard Malcolm Lee, playing on a small cartilage tear in his left knee, went two-for-three in 28 minutes.
With the guards ineffective and the Ducks denying the post, UCLA could get no closer than 10 in the second half.
Even after the Bruins showed the briefest glimpse of life early in the second half, Oregon responded just as quick, taking an 11-point lead with 16:54 to go and stretching it to 22 points less than eight minutes later.
“Whenever we did make a good run, they’d make a shot,” Jones said. That’s discouraging, when you’re making those runs and they get a foul or they make a tough shot. That makes it really tough when you’re trying to fight back. We have to still be mentally tough.”
There’s not too much time left.