EUGENE, ORE. — With about a minute left in the madness that swallowed the nation's No. 1-ranked team here Saturday, the roaring and stomping crowd was suddenly drowned out.
What could be louder? It was a fire alarm. It began buzzing and whooping and sending chills through the 9,000 who had squeezed into this eight-decades-old piece of kindling known as McArthur Court.
But none of the Oregon fans left. None of them even moved. It was as if everyone knew.
This was going to be UCLA's day to evacuate.
"Yeah," a red-eyed Arron Afflalo said later. "A day I never, ever want to forget."
Minutes later, the old court filled with rushing streams of dancing yellow shirts, the back door filled with a dozen trudging blue ones, the Bruins staggering away after a 68-66 loss to Oregon that was so much more.
Evacuated was their unbeaten season, their 14-0 record now as stained as Afflalo's jersey as he kept wiping back tears.
"I really didn't think we could be beat," Afflalo said. "I know nobody is invincible, but I thought we would never lose."
Evacuated will be their national No. 1 ranking, which they were holding for the first time since their last national title season of 1994-95.
"A big win ... the biggest win ... a huge win," Oregon's wide-eyed Maarty Leunen said again and again.
Also evacuated, for now, is the notion that this season's UCLA team is better than the group that reached last season's national championship game.
These Bruins might eventually be better. But right now, they're not.
These Bruins might eventually be worthy of a No. 1 ranking. But right now, no way.
After a game in which they desperately missed Jordan Farmar's swagger and Ryan Hollins' swoop, Afflalo stated what everyone was thinking.
"Last March, this would have been different," he said.
Last March, they would not have initially been overwhelmed by a crowd that hung over their backs and screamed down their shirts, creating noise so immense it rattled pens on press rows.
In the first half, the clearly shaken Bruins allowed Oregon to shoot 70%, Darren Collison and Afflalo combined to go 0-for-9 shooting, and UCLA trailed by 10 points.
"Disgusting," Afflalo said.
Last March, too, they would have come back to win this game after tying in the last minute. But, this time, they blew it with two miserable plays in the last 13 seconds.
On the first play, Collison allowed Aaron Brooks to dribble up court and around him and into a space as empty as parts of the Oregon coast. From there, he sank an open jumper to give Oregon the lead.
"I was going to pull it back out, but I found myself wide open, I \o7had \f7to shoot," said Brooks, who lit the Bruins guards for 25 points.
Moments later, Collison failed to penetrate for a final shot, and instead threw to sore-legged Josh Shipp, who threw up an off-balance, three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Coach Ben Howland blamed himself for calling the play, Collison blamed himself for messing it up, but nobody was angrier about it than veteran leader Afflalo, who never touched the ball when he probably should have been the only one touching it.
As the crowd of yellow-shirted students stampeded the court to celebrate Oregon's first win over a No. 1 team in 33 years, a fan bumped into Afflalo, and the good-natured player angrily took a couple of steps toward the fan before being restrained.
"I had so many emotions, from sad to angry," Afflalo said. "I really wanted to be part of history. And I felt like today, that history was stolen."
Judging by that lump in his throat, it was clear that Afflalo felt this loss began and ended with him.
"It's a mistake I'll never make again," he said of that final shot. "I don't know how I'll do it, but next time, I'll find a way to get the ball in the end."
"I know we have a lot of great players, but I feel like this is my team, and I need to do whatever it takes," he said.
What it also will take is experience at point guard.
Collison, in his first season after replacing Farmar, showed he is still not quite ready to run a team in a March climate, with four turnovers, three assists and only two baskets in eight tries.
"We've just got to absorb the pain," he said.
The Bruins also need to be stronger inside, where Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata had four turnovers and one blocked shot between them.
What Oregon did against the Bruins, others will now also do, spreading the floor and running their quick guards to the basket with no fear, again and again.
"The important thing now is, how do you learn from this?" Howland said. "How do you bounce back?"
That bounce won't have to go far, the Bruins traveling to Galen Center for the first time next weekend to play USC.
Only, they're now the \o7one-loss \f7Bruins. It sounds strange. It sounds about right.
\o7Bill Plaschke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke\f7.