The Oregon Ducks entered their game against the UCLA Bruins desperate for a win over a quality opponent. All the Ducks could control was the here and now, needing to take one game at a time to puff up their NCAA Tournament resume.
Oregon’s hopes received a boost when they learned three hours prior to tip-off that UCLA would be without Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson who were suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules. The backcourt duo combines to average 32.1 points per game. Anderson is regarded as one of the best all-around point guards in the nation and the Pac-12, tallying an average of 8.6 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game.
But the Ducks could not get complacent with such an opportunity at their finger-tips. The black eye on the Ducks’ NCAA Tournament hopes all season has been their inability to win close games paired with the lack of a signature win. On Thursday, those concerns diminished with a gritty performance from the Ducks who used two overtimes to knock off the resilient Bruins 87-83 on the road.
Entering Thursday, Oregon’s best wins came against Georgetown and Brigham Young, two teams that are struggling to make the field of 68. The game against the Bruins was critical to keeping their hopes of making the Big Dance alive.
Oregon, a team that had found itself on the losing end of more than one close game this season, lost steam late in the game. UCLA whittled down a 12-point halftime deficit to two points by the 3:02 mark of the second half behind the performances of replacements Bryce Alford and Zach Levine. Alford finished with 31 points and six assists in an extravagant understudy role.
The signature win that had evaded the Ducks seemed to be well in hand leading by four points with 16 seconds left, only to be snatched back in dramatic fashion. A handful of missed free throws and a turnover by the Ducks allowed gutsy three-pointers by Alford and a buzzer-beater by David Wear on an outlet pass with 1.4 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
In the second overtime, the Ducks were finally able to gain some separation. Joseph Young, who finished with 26 points, drained a critical corner three-pointer, and Mike Mosier hit a floater in the lane to deliver the win for Oregon.
The Ducks finally have a win they can hang their hats on. In beating UCLA, Oregon added a win over an upper-echelon conference foe, captured a fourth straight win and proved to be able to win a dogfight. The Ducks are now trending upward.