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UCLA experiences too few senior moments in 70-68 loss to Oregon

Things go wrong from start to finish on 'senior day' as UCLA falls to last-place Ducks in its final home game of the season.

February 28, 2010|By Chris Foster

There are days you just can't win.

UCLA senior forward Nikola Dragovic, who was already dealing with a shoulder injury, stepped on a basketball during warmups and sprained his right ankle Saturday.

Jerime Anderson, the sophomore guard with the Bruins' senior day desires in his hands, tossed an errant pass for a turnover with just over a minute left and the score tied, then threw a no-look pass out of bounds with 30 seconds to go and UCLA down by three.

Dragovic's senior trip at the start and Anderson's sophomore slip at the end made Oregon's 70-68 victory at Pauley Pavilion seem almost predetermined.

Tajuan Porter, the Ducks' 5-foot-7 guard, followed Anderson's first turnover with a three-pointer with 49 seconds left, part of a 29-point performance. Another Anderson turnover and the Ducks needed only to make free throws. They made just enough, two of five, to beat UCLA in its last home game of the season.

"What's next?" said a battered Dragovic, who gutted out 34 minutes, finishing with seven points and one rebound. "My parents came [from Serbia] Tuesday and my shoulder pops out a little on Thursday. I get a shot before the game and can at least raise my arm above my shoulder. Then two minutes before the game, I step on a basketball."

Such are the pains and pratfalls that have the Bruins (13-15 overall, 8-8 in Pacific 10 Conference play) staring at their third losing season since 1947-48.

"You want to win your last game," said sophomore guard Malcolm Lee, whose 18 points helped UCLA rally from a 14-point deficit. "It's a legacy for your seniors"

It nearly was. Michael Roll pushed the Bruins toward a happy ending, tying his career high with 25 points. Eight came during a stretch in which they pulled even, 62-62, with five minutes left.

Then Anderson gave, and took away.

Anderson burst down the lane for a layup and hit a free throw to tie the score, 65-65. It was still tied when the Bruins got the ball back, but Anderson's first late turnover led to Porter's go-ahead three, and his second pretty much sealed the outcome.

"It's inexplicable," Coach Ben Howland said. "I don't know if it was fatigue. I have no answers for that."

Few have been found in a season when UCLA has proved it can play with the Pac-10's best, and lose to its worst. The Bruins beat California, which has clinched at least a tie for the title, but lost to last-place Oregon twice.

The Ducks (14-14, 6-10) can at least claim the Los Angeles city title, having beaten both UCLA and USC twice this season.

"It's good to come here on [UCLA's] senior day and pay tribute to those guys who were on those Final Four teams," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent said.

While that was delivered with a straight face, it had to sting.

Roll had already framed his senior day memory, saying, "I'll remember all pre-game festivities, and the fans, and I will remember it was a great game. But it will always be a loss."

Porter made sure of that. He made 11 of 20 shots, including seven of nine from three-point range. The Ducks were 10 for 14 on three-point attempts.

"Porter can really shoot, we knew that coming in," Roll said. "Everybody knows that and he still gets the shot off because he's so quick."

The Bruins, meanwhile, made 20 of 25 shots from inside the three-point line, but were only eight for 26 beyond it. Eight of their first nine shots were three-point tries.

"That shows how much we were hurting for an inside presence," Howland said.

The Bruins were out-rebounded, 33-26. Whether that improves is a medical question. Forward Reeves Nelson (torn retina) may not return; he'll be re-evaluated Wednesday. Dragovic will have X-rays on his ankle today. Forward Brendan Lane, who had eight points and five rebounds despite a sprained left ankle, hobbled out of the building wearing a boot.

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