UCLA guard Zach LaVine tries to drive around Ducks guard Jason Calliste… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
UCLA’s two best players couldn’t play.
The Bruins’ top two scorers couldn’t take shots. Their best rebounder wasn’t around to rebound. Their best defender wasn’t there to defend.
Oddly it didn’t seem to matter that guards Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson were suspended hours for Thursday’s Pac-12 Conference game against Oregon.
Sure the Bruins were handed the expected loss. But the Ducks had to extend themselves to the limit before taking an 87-83 victory in double overtime at Pauley Pavilion.
David Wear sank a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the score, 71-71, at the end of regulation. Oregon’s Jonathan Loyd missed a jumper at the end of overtime.
The Ducks finally outlasted the Bruins by making five of six free throws in the last 39 seconds of the second overtime.
Joseph Young had 26 points and Jason Calliste added 18 to give the Ducks (19-8 overall, 7-8 in Pac-12 play) a much-needed victory. But if the Bruins (21-7 and 10-5) were looking for a defining moment as they turn toward postseason play, this was pretty close.
UCLA rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half to force overtime in a game the Bruins seemed to have little chance of winning from the start. Yet, it still left them empty.
“We didn’t have any practice without those guys,” David Wear said. “To put forth that effort and lose hurts.”
Or, as Alford said, “Losing is not expected. We’re UCLA.”
It was expected Thursday.
The Bruins found out in the late afternoon that they would be without Adams and Anderson.
Alford and fellow freshman Zach LaVine plugged the holes in the lineup. Alford played 49 minutes, finishing with 31 points and six assists. LaVine played 48 minutes, contributing 18 points and eight rebounds.
“We knew the type of team we have from top to bottom,” Alford said.
Still, the Bruins need some CPR from Norman Powell.
The Ducks seemed to have the game in hand with a 51-37 lead midway through the second half.
Powell scored nine consecutive points to help cut the deficit to six, 56-50, with five minutes left. He scored 13 of his 14 points in the second half.
The Bruins kept chasing, with Alford and LaVine making big baskets. It didn’t seem to matter.
Young sank two free throws with 1.3 seconds left to give the Ducks a three-point lead. But someone neglected to cover David Wear on the inbounds play. Wear took a long pass from his brother Travis and buried a three-pointer from 30 feet at the buzzer.
“I started running down court and realized no one picked me up,” David Wear said. "We made eye contact and he threw a perfect pass to line me up.”
The Bruins had a patch-work lineup throughout the game. That included Noah Allen, who logged 11 minutes, seven more than he had in 14 previous conference games.
“We didn’t have three days to prepare,” Coach Steve Alford said. "We had a walk-through four hours before the game. That’s why I’m so proud of these guys.”
The Ducks will happily allow the Bruins their pride. They needed the victory.
Oregon was considered a Pac-12 contender entering conference play. Then the Ducks lost eight of 10 games. They came into Thursday’s game having won four of six and were hoping to impress the NCAA selection committee.
UCLA saw its slim Pac-12 title hopes take a hit. They trail Arizona by two games with three games left.
The Bruins will have Adams and Anderson back Sunday when they host Oregon State. Adams averages 17.2 points and Anderson 14.9. Anderson also leads the team in rebounds (8.6) and the conference in assists (6.9).
UCLA officials were mum on what the two did to rate a suspension before a key game. Steve Alford said, “it is something we want to keep internal.”
The two players addressed the rest of the team Thursday afternoon.
“They said they were sorry and that they learned from this,” David Wear said. “You couldn’t ask for better teammates.”
Adams and Anderson watched the game from the bench in street clothes. What they saw in the first half was far from pretty.
That was underscored by one 33-second sequence that started when Bryce Alford turned the ball over. The Ducks’ Elgin Cook missed a layup in transition. The Bruins knocked the rebound out of bounds. Oregon’s Damyean Dotson missed a three-pointer.
And so it went.
The Ducks shot 39% in the first half, and they were the “hot” team. UCLA had eight field goals in the first half and shot 30%.
Calliste made four of five shots in the half, all three-pointers, and had 15 points. The rest of the Ducks were seven for 23.