After scoring just one basket in the first half at Oregon, UCLA’s Isaac Hamilton made his second at just the right time.
The junior drilled a 3-pointer with 12:20 on the game clock, one that cut the Bruins’ deficit to just three points. They had trailed by as many as 12 points just two minutes earlier, but the first Pac-12 road sweep of the Steve Alford era looked within reach.
But, as Alford had complained earlier this week, UCLA just couldn’t get a stop. Pulling away for an 86-72 win at Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks closed out the game by shooting 12 of 19 from the field, including four of seven from beyond the arc. Key to the effort was 6-foot-10 forward Chris Boucher, the JUCO transfer playing his first season in Eugene.
Named the NJCAA Division I Player of the Year after averaging 22.5 points at Wyoming’s Northwest College last season, the Montreal native buried the Bruins (12-8, 3-4), scoring eight of his 18 points in the final four minutes.
Boucher and fellow forwards Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks combined for 60 points on 51.1 percent shooting, as well as 22 rebounds. UCLA was outrebounded for the third time by a Pac-12 opponent, giving up a season-worst 42-32 margin on the glass.
The Bruins also didn’t get much out of their primary scorers. Hamilton and point guard Bryce Alford, who collectively averaged more than 33 points per game entering the weekend, mustered just seven before halftime. Both ended the game with 10 points apiece, but only made three of their 13 shots inside the arc.
Meanwhile, freshman Aaron Holiday had arguably the best game of his career, scoring a season-high 19 points to lead the team. He scored eight points in the first 7:02 of the second half, becoming the catalyst in UCLA’s comeback effort. The four-star recruit has improved his shooting tremendously in the past several weeks. After averaging 38.8 percent from the field in nonconference play, he is converting 48.6 against Pac-12 opponents.
Holiday also chipped in five rebounds and five assists at Oregon, and didn’t miss on six free throw attempts.