Oregon 76, UCLA 67: ‘It’s really about toughness’

After losing to Oregon on Saturday, UCLA is clearly just a good team, not a great one. With Arizona and Arizona State coming up, the Bruins will have to stopgap its flaws to keep its conference title hopes alive.

– The Bruins were outrebounded 40-31, a margin that felt even larger watching the game. The Ducks had 12 second-chance points, while the Bruins couldn’t get even one until the last minute. Travis Wear is still a consistent, floor-spreading threat on offense, but he doesn’t offer much in terms of interior game. Ben Howland said after the game that he wished he had played Tony Parker more; the freshman had two rebounds and a block in three minutes.

“They’re just physical, they’re strong,” Howland said of Oregon. “It’s my fault. We obviously haven’t done a good enough job teaching block outs.”

Most absurd was a first-half possession in which Oregon grabbed four straight offensive boards — a sequence that didn’t end in points after Kyle Anderson tipped a steal away from center Tony Woods.

“We’ve got to box out and go seek the ball rather than just boxing out and hoping someone else is going to grab it,” said Travis Wear, who scored a team-high 17 but grabbed just two boards. “You go get it, don’t let it come to you. We’ll work on it in practice. Rebounds is an effort thing.”

Added Norman Powell: “It’s really about toughness.”

– UCLA couldn’t contend with the Ducks’ various defensive looks in the second half, from a full-court press to a zone. The Bruins shot 55 percent in the first half when they were able to dictate the pace, but that fell to just under 38 percent when Oregon bogged the game down. Through 11-plus minutes after the break, through part of which the Ducks scored eight unanswered points, the two teams combined for just six field goals.

“They did a great job keeping us uncomfortable,” Wear said.

– Shabazz Muhammad is still the team’s best player, but UCLA hasn’t gotten much from him lately. The freshman bounced back with 21 points after shooting 9 of 29 at Utah and Colorado, then disappeared again against Oregon. Muhammad didn’t start after being late to Friday’s practice; he overslept and also had his car towed, according to Howland. Once he did play, he put in an electrifying stretch in scoring his team’s final eight points of second half, but finished scoreless in the second half as Oregon seized the lead and pulled away. He can’t afford to do that at Arizona.

Jordan Adams is also shooting 1 of 12 in his past two games, though he hit all seven of his free throws against the Ducks.

– Back when the Bruins were struggling most in November, Howland said the team’s lack of turnovers was the lone bright spot. That hasn’t been the case lately. UCLA’s 15 turnovers against Oregon was its worst mark since coughing up 16 against Cal State Northridge on Nov. 28. The Bruins’ assist-to-turnover ratio is just 1.28 over the past three games. It was 2.02 in the six games prior.

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