Oregon's Olu Ashaolu, left, and Devoe Joseph, right, battle for a… (Rick Bowmer / Associated…)
Reporting from Eugene, Ore. — There was a running theme to Coach Ben Howland's assessment after UCLA's 75-68 loss to Oregon on Saturday.
"I thought we played really, really well in the first half … "
"The first half, we played great … "
"We obviously won the first half … "
Howland's postmortem to the Bruins was a bit different, and louder, as it wafted into the hallway. This was no time for coddling a team that was picked to win the Pac-12 Conference. UCLA (10-9 overall, 3-4 in conference play) slipped further in the standings after blowing a 13-point halftime lead at Knight Arena.
Howland pointed out seven times how well the Bruins played in the first half. As for the entire game, he said, "we need to be mentally tougher."
The Ducks (15-5, 6-3) made only seven of 31 shots in the first half, but scored 51 points in the second half. E.J. Singler scored a career-high 26 points, 23 in the second half.
It made for a bookend to a trip that began with a loss to Oregon State on Thursday. It was only the sixth time that UCLA has been 0-for-Oregon in the last 48 seasons and the first since 2003-04, Howland's first season.
The bright side? Howland is in good company. He and John Wooden are the only UCLA coaches to be swept in Oregon twice. The brighter side? UCLA doesn't have to travel to Oregon next season.
The Bruins had seen enough of the state after Saturday.
"It's devastating to lose after having a 13-point lead," guard Jerime Anderson said. "We were spotted 13 points in 20 minutes."
Still, Anderson said, "There is nothing going through our heads mentally telling us 'we don't want to win' or anything like that."
Besides, guard Lazeric Jones said, "the goals are the same. We want to win the Pac-12."
The difference between wanting and getting was heard after the game.
"I can't say anything was lacking," Jones said. "They came out in the second half, got momentum, and took the lead."
The voice from the other locker room was Singler's: "We have a passion for the game and eagerness to win."
The Bruins led, 37-24, at halftime and then learned what it takes to be a contender. The Ducks spent 20 minutes showing them.
The Ducks were embarrassed in the first half, shrugged and scored the first 11 points after halftime, four when Garrett Sim made a three-point basket and was fouled. Sim made another three-pointer on the next possession to cut UCLA's lead to 37-33.
The Ducks forced key turnovers with their press and had 10 offensive rebounds in the second half. Singler's rebound and layup gave the Ducks their first lead, 52-50, with 7 minutes 47 seconds left. They never trailed again.
Free-throw shooting …
Oregon made 28 of 32 free throws. Singler made 16 of 17 and was eight for eight in the final minute. UCLA was 10 for 21 from the line.
"We had opportunities to be up more in the first half, but the foul shooting hurt us," Howland said. "We were one for eight … one for eight … that is just brutal."
Which left Howland shaking his head.
"We had a great opportunity," he said. "We were up 13 at the half."
David Wear is injured
UCLA forward David Wear hyperextended his left knee in the game and will be reevaluated when the team returns to Los Angeles.