Without shooting guard Jordan Adams, UCLA couldn’t do enough to beat Oregon for the Pac-12 tournament championship. As Adams sat at the end of the bench with a broken right foot, the Bruins lost 78-69 and failed to put together one strong, late rally.
UCLA cut the Ducks’ to two points with 12 minutes left to go on a 3-pointer by Larry Drew II, but proceeded to give up a 6-0 run over the next 90 seconds. It went the rest of the way down between six and 12 points — save for a 19-second stretch that saw the deficit shrink to four.
Oregon won its first tournament title since 2007. No team has won both the regular-season and tournament championships since the Bruins did so in 2008.
— UCLA’s seed for the NCAA tournament will likely drop due to Adams’ absence. The NCAA selection committee often account for injuries in their decision, and the Bruins being without their second-leading scorer could weigh heavily. In 2000, top-ranked Cincinnati missed out on a No. 1 seed when Kenyon Martin broke his leg. In 2009, St. Mary’s missed the tournament despite 26 wins because point guard Patty Mills hadn’t shaken off rust after breaking his hand.
CBS Sports dropped UCLA two spots to a No. 9 seed after the Pac-12 tournament. For what it’s worth, players don’t think they deserve to be slighted for having a short-handed roster.
“They shouldn’t (drop us),” Shabazz Muhammad said. “We’re winning games. But that’s something they could do. Politics nowadays are so unusual. They can do whatever they have the power to. We’ll see what happens.”
Added forward Travis Wear: “I think we proved — winning the regular season and beating Arizona three times — that we deserve a good seeding whether we have Jordan or not.”
However, they acknowledged that they missed an chance to prove they could win without Adams, who stretches the floor in a way that no other player on the roster does.
Before Saturday’s game, Adams’ 150 3-point attempts accounted for 31.1 percent of the team total. Norman Powell can hit from distance as well — he entered the day averaging .278 to Adams’ .307 — but isn’t as reliable in mid-range. The sophomore only makes 35 percent on 2-point jumpers, compared to Adams’ 45 percent. Powell only also takes 19 percent of his shots from that range, less than half of Adams’ rate.
“It was a huge opportunity that was blown,” Larry Drew said. “Obviously, it’s disappointing, but it’s not over yet by any means. We’ve just got to learn from our mistakes.”
— A full week of practice might help the Bruins adjust to life post-Adams. UCLA wasn’t only deprived of its second-leading scorer, but was also forced to alter its playbook. The Bruins only shot 41.4 percent in the first half, and had trouble with rotations on both the offensive and defensive end as many players spent more minutes in different positions. The team also didn’t play a very efficient game with eight assists against 14 turnovers.
“We were calling sets that we haven’t even practiced yet, with guys in certain positions,” forward Travis Wear said. “We just immediately had to abort that and keep running the same thing because we didn’t know anything else.
“That’s the biggest issue. We weren’t really able to catch them off guard, having to run the same play.”
— Kyle Anderson said he didn’t want feel as comfortable trying to defend the small forward spot after having spent most of the season guarding opposing power forwards. Small forward E.J. Singler only had eight points, but Carlos Emory came off the bench to score a game-high 20.
“I had a few mental lapses, forgetting I was guarding a three and not a four,” Anderson said. “That hurt us a little bit.”
Norman Powell did a decent job filling in the starting lineup, particularly on defense, and finished with 10 points after struggling in the first half. Still, the team had less than 24 hours to prepare a playbook without Adams, and couldn’t adjust well enough even in the latter half of the game.
“We didn’t run any plays or practice any plays with him at that position,” Travis Wear said. “That was definitely an issue. I don’t think the second half got any better, really.”
— Fatigue also set in for UCLA, which was reduced to a seven-man rotation as it played its third game in as many days. Five players received at least 30 minutes, while David Wear wasn’t far behind with 25. Oregon only had one player — forward Arsalan Kazemi — eclipse that mark, and had eight players with double-digit playing time.
“We wanted to come out and win this one for (Adams),” Travis Wear said. “I think fatigue was probably a little bit of a factor. Mental fatigue and definitely physical fatigue. We played seven guys tonight. I think they went eight, nine, 10 deep. When you’ve got guys playing a ton of minutes, it’s going to be hard.”
Added Drew: “We just have to learn to put possessions together and not take possessions off. Fatigue might have set in a little bit, but there’s no room for error. There’s no room for excuses.”
— Larry Drew II and Jordan Adams both made the all-tournament team alongside ASU point guard Jahii Carson and Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi and Damyean Dotson. Ducks point guard Johnathan Loyd, who scored 19 points off the bench in the title game, was named the most outstanding player.