Oregon's comeback effort falls short in 70-68 loss to UCLA

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Despite trailing by as many as 11 with less than six minutes to play, the Oregon Ducks managed to claw their way back into things against the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night in Eugene. The end result however, is one this team is becoming all too familiar with.

After having to fight back from a double-digit deficit with less than six minutes to work with, the Oregon Ducks dropped a heartbreaker to the UCLA Bruins 70-68 on Thursday night at Matthew Knight Arena.

“It’s always disappointing when you lose a two-pointer at home,” said Altman. “We had a really bad stretch there. The difference in the game was the start of the second half.”

Joseph Young led the ducks with 25 points, including shooting 75 percent from beyond the arc during the first half. Jason Calliste turned in a huge night coming off the bench with 29 points.

Oregon’s defense did show signs of improvement, forcing UCLA to commit 16 turnovers with nine of those coming from Kyle Anderson. Altman referred to their defensive effort as “pesky,” in creating those turnovers. The Ducks were able to create 25 points off those turnovers during the night.

It only took a few minutes for Dana Altman to send in Johnathan Loyd and his mask. Earlier in practice this week, Loyd broke his nose during a rebound drill and had to wear a protective mask over his face during the game. Loyd showed no fear of potentially reinjuring the nose, playing aggressive defense and forcing an early turnover.

With Oregon trailing by six points early, Joseph Young managed to draw a foul beyond the arc to get three free throws. Young, an 87 percent free throw shooter, knocked down each one of them. On Oregon’s next possession, Young hit a three-pointer to give the Ducks their first lead of the night as part of a 12-2 scoring run by Oregon.

After four straight missed baskets including three from outside the paint, the Ducks went back to the basket for a pair of layups to extend their lead to six points, their largest of the night to that point.

UCLA was able to keep pace with the Ducks in the first half primarily because Oregon couldn’t stop fouling. The Bruins managed to get to the line twice as many times as the Ducks while hitting 85.7 percent of their free throws.

Young carried the Ducks in the first half, hitting three of four from beyond the arc as part of a 16 point effort. Calliste also added eight points off the bench during the first half.

Loyd’s time off the bench was obviously sparse, playing just eight minutes, forcing a steal and coming up with a defensive rebound. During shoot-around, Loyd was constantly adjusting his mask, never appearing to be fully comfortable with it on.

The Ducks got off to a sloppy start in the second half, missing their first four shots, all from beyond the arc. Oregon’s success in the first half came primarily from the outside, so it looked like that was the game plan that Altman was going to stick with. Into the second half, Richard Amardi was the only non-guard to score for the Ducks. Live by the three, die by the three. The poor shooting combined with three early turnovers allowed the Bruins to jump out to a seven point lead as part of a 13-2 run to start the half.

“We stopped driving the ball and we just kept shooting jumpers,” said Young. “We just need to attack from the beginning.”

The Ducks fought their way back into it before letting UCLA’s lead grow too large with a jumper from Amardi and a three-pointer from Calliste to bring the Ducks back to within two points. After a cold start, Oregon used an 11-4 run to tie things back up midway through the second half.

After a trio of free throws from Calliste to tie things up at 52, the Ducks once again became carless with the ball committing costly turnovers, including one from Ben Carter who passed it straight to UCLA’s Jordan Adams while falling, allowing Adams to put up the easy bucket. In the span of less than three minutes, Oregon committed four turnovers. In a span of 3:09, Oregon attempted just one shot as a result of those turnovers.

“We had some bad offensive possessions in the second half,” said Altman. “We had some bad turnovers, so we went with a smaller lineup.”

Altman went on to say the turnovers were a result of bad organization, which he took full blame for.

After Calliste’s free throws, the Bruins responded with 10 unanswered points to get their first double digit lead of the night, grasping control of a game in which neither team was truly able to grasp control up until that point.

With five minutes left and Oregon trailing by eleven, Altman made the logical coaching decision of putting the only five guys who had scored for Oregon out on the floor together. If a comeback was in the works, this would have to be the group to engineer one.

The Ducks managed to trim away at UCLA’s lead, and after a turnover and a fast break layup, Oregon had cut the Bruins’ lead in half. On their next possession, Young was able to get to the rim to hit the inside basket and draw the foul. After completing the three-point play, UCLA’s lead was down to just two after they had been leading by as much as 11 less than two minutes earlier.

Then, with 88 ticks of the clock left and ice water flowing through his veins, Calliste pulled up for the go-ahead three-pointer to give Oregon a 66-65 lead, sending Matthew Knight Arena and their in-house DJ into a deafening frenzy.

With just over one minute to go, UCLA’s Tony Parker fouled out after an over-the-back call. Amardi capitalized by hitting both free throws to give the Ducks a three-point lead. UCLA responded with a three-point play from Jordan Adams to tie things up.

After a missed jumper by Anderson, the Bruins were able to tie up Amardi on the rebound to get the jump ball call and retain possession. The Ducks had several opportunities to get possession back, but simply couldn’t come up with the boards in the final moents.

“We had three rebounds that we didn’t get. We just have to get tough,” said Young.

Travis Wear managed to save a stripped ball and lay it in to give UCLA the lead with 5.3 seconds to go. Altman would call a timeout to draw up one last play, and his plan was questionable to say the least. With just five seconds to work with, Altman had Loyd charge up the court to take the final shot. Loyd, who stands at just 5’8’’, was blocked by Wear while pulling up for the floater as the Bruins hung on for the win.

“We were hoping he would make a play for Joe (Young) there,” said Altman. “That’s not what we had planned.”

Altman was hoping for Loyd to read the play better and kick the ball out to Young or another open shooter, but Loyd just made a bad read according to the coach.

Sure, it makes sense to send your fastest guy down the court when you only have five seconds to work with. But to allow him to not even look at a better shot option and force up a basket that Wear had no trouble blocking? C’mon, Dana. You’re better than that.

Fortunately for the Ducks, they get to face USC on Saturday. The Trojans, along with Washington State, might provide the Ducks with some sort of distraction from their recent slump as they sit near the bottom of the conference with a 1-7 record in Pac-12 play.

“It’s tough, but we have to get over it,” said Young. “We have USC coming up. We just have to practice hard tomorrow, put it behind us and go from there.”

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