Like Season, UCLA Can't Pull Out Game

It was Senior Night, with John Wooden in the house, but the Bruins couldn't get a win, almost mounting a successful comeback to fall to Oregon, 70-68. In his last outing at Pauley Mike Roll, fittingly, had a good game, but other Bruins didn't...

It was supposed to be a special day at Pauley Pavilion. Senior Day, the 1970 National Champion UCLA team in the house to be honored at halftime. John Wooden in attendance for possibly his last time at Pauley.

But the Oregon Ducks came in smoking hot from three-point range, got out to a double-digit lead and pulled out the win, 70-68, to sweep the Bruins on the season.

In the first half, UCLA came out very flat, its zone being way loose, and Oregon hit 7 of 10 shots from three-point range in the first half. It's clear that opponents have sniffed out the holes in UCLA's zone this late in the season, being able to overload one side to then find open jump shooters on the other. Oregon guard Tajuan Porter lit up UCLA for 16 points in the first half, with UCLA defenders unable to keep track of him in the zone. On offense, other than Mike Roll, UCLA had nobody making any shots and repeatedly settled for jumpers against the Oregon zone. Oregon eventually changed up its own zone to extend on Roll and to take advantage of UCLA not having its best post scorer, Reeves Nelson, available to play. Oregon shot out the lights from three, and led, 41-31, at the half. Porter and Jeremy Jacob led the Oregon attack, while Roll and Malcolm Lee tried to keep UCLA close. The Bruins got 0 points and 0 rebounds from senior Nikola Dragovic, who started at the center position for the injured Nelson. Dragovic was nursing a sore left shoulder injured in the last game and frankly looked nowhere near healthy. Coach Ben Howland eventually realized Dragovic wasn't going to be much help and inserted freshman Brendan Lane to play the 5. Lane had some problems on defense, but was much more active than expected, considering he was nursing a sprained ankle. Even with his injury, he clearly out-played Dragovic in the first half and, as a result, started the 2nd half for the Bruins.

UCLA went man-to-man with 3 minutes left in the first half to try and shut off Porter, and Howland elected to start the 2nd half in the man-to-man. Oregon came out in the 2nd half and just picked apart the man defense. UCLA sophomore Tyler Honeycutt got his 3rd foul and had to sit, and Oregon then started attacking Jerime Anderson off the dribble. Oregon, using ball screens, got consecutive blow-by lay-ups, one by Malcolm Armstead, one by Porter. UCLA had no help inside and Howland had to concede they could not guard Oregon man-to-man, so he pulled Anderson, put Honeycutt back in and went back to the zone, trying to hide Honeycutt. About 2 minutes later, Honeycutt picked up his 4th foul and had to go back to the bench.

Despite all these problems, UCLA's defense became more effectively merely by making a marked effort to keep track of Porter. It rallied down 10 behind Roll and Malcolm Lee, and got to within 3 with a few minutes remaining. Anderson then made a terrific driving lay-up, got fouled and made the free throw, tying up the game at 65 with 2 minutes left. Honeycutt then made a spectacular play coming from five feet away to block a short jumper by Porter and UCLA appeared primed to take the lead.

But unfortunately that's when the wheels fell off the wagon for UCLA. Anderson drove the middle and had Honeycutt wide open for a lay-up but his pass was too low at Honeycutt's feet and went out of bounds. On the other end, Porter drained a huge three, curling off a pick from about 24 feet away. UCLA tried to set up for a good shot on its next possession, but Anderson, trying to get the ball to Roll, threw the ball out of bounds, giving Oregon the ball back. Oregon hit 2 free throws to put the lead to 5 and Roll then hit a three-pointer with about 2 seconds left, making the final score 70-68.

It was a very disheartening outcome, given how hard UCLA had fought to get back in the game, only to throw it away down the stretch on the consecutive backbreaking turnovers by Anderson.

Roll led the Bruins with 25 and Lee added 18, mainly on cuts to the basket. The freshman Lane had his 2nd straight solid offensive game with 8 points and 5 rebounds, although he had some problems defensively in both the zone and the man playing the 5 spot. The Bruins were unable to overcome the poor game from Dragovic, who finished with only 7 points and 1 rebound, including 1-6 from three-point range, while playing absolutely no defense. The issue is, if Dragovic was so clearly injured, and less able physically to play than he normally is, he probably shouldn't have been playing. But Howland clearly believed that, with Nelson and James Keefe both out, even an injured Dragovic was the best option – even better than Lane. Dragovic played 34 minutes while Lane was in for 23. It was, to say the least, inexplicable why a completely ineffectual Dragovic garnered so much playing time – even while he was clearly injured – playing the center spot when J'mison Morgan was available. Bobo played only briefly in the first half and never saw the court in the 2nd half, despite UCLA getting destroyed on the glass 22-11 in the first half. Honeycutt led UCLA with 13 boards but the rest of the team combined for only 13 rebounds as Oregon won the battle battle of the glass, 32-26.

While it was a loss, it was bittersweet that Roll had a strong outing for his last game at Pauley Pavilion, hitting six three pointers and his 25 points tying a career high. Clearly close to tears when he was introduced before the game with his parents, you had to share a bit of his emotions with him – not only because he is the last of the players who significantly contributed to UCLA's recent Final Four teams, but that he had to end his UCLA career playing on such a poor team having a forgettable season.

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