It’s safe to say that Oregon (15-12, 6-8 Pac-12) has a UCLA problem.
Leading by 19 early in the second half, the Ducks looked to be in firm control against the Bruins (15-13, 8-7 Pac-12). But much like earlier in the season, Oregon couldn’t hold the lead as a barrage of UCLA three-pointers proved to be too much for the Ducks to handle, falling 90-83 on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
"When we went up there, we were down by a lot… we knew to keep fighting," UCLA’s Kris Wilkes (20 points) said, referring to UCLA’s comeback victory over Oregon in January. "We ultimately had to get some energy… our defense stepped up, too."
The last time these two teams met, Oregon gave up 39 points in the final 12 minutes, including leading by eight in the final minute before eventually losing in overtime.
A three-pointer by Payton Pritchard to begin the second half extended Oregon’s lead to 47-28 with just over 19 minutes left in the game — but the Bruins were just getting started, outscoring the Ducks 62-36 the rest of the way.
"We scored 83 points, that should be enough — but you can't give up 62 points in the second half," Oregon head coach Dana Altman said.
Paul White and Pritchard, Oregon’s only veteran players, each scored 18 points in the loss.
White, who was 4-of-10 from beyond the arc, added five rebounds while Pritchard finished with a team-high eight assists.
But neither of them could top the play of UCLA’s Jaylen Hands. Hands scored 27 points, all in the second half comeback, knocking down seven three-pointers and adding nine assists.
"It seemed like he couldn't miss, especially on that shot that was from almost half-court,” White said of Hands.
Oregon surged right out of the gate, jumping out to an 11-2 lead. The Bruins fought back to tie it at 20-all before the Ducks’ offense really got going. They finished the half on a 24-8 run, using their full court press to get out in transition and moving without the ball to find the open player — dishing out 14 assists on 17 made baskets.
White was instrumental in getting Oregon out to the big lead, dropping 14 points in the half and knocking down four of the team’s eight shots from beyond the arc. Victor Bailey Jr. added nine points off the bench, all of which came from three-pointers.
Following a pair of free throws by Oregon’s Will Richardson that put the lead at 53-38, UCLA went on a 17-0 run. Hands finished with 13 of the points, including the final 11, giving the Bruins a lead with 10:36 to play.
With UCLA leading 83-71 with under a minute to play, the Ducks went on one last run to give themselves a chance. Bailey added a quick four points before a White layup cut the deficit to six with 1:11 to go. He had a chance to make it five, but he missed the ensuing free throw, and Hands promptly hit a three-pointer on the next possession, ending the comeback attempt.
"This is a tough loss, this will test our character," White said.
Kenny Wooten added 16 points and nine rebounds while Bailey finished with 13 points, knocking down four three-pointers.
Oregon, now sitting in ninth place in the Pac-12, returns home to face second-place Arizona State on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and will air on the Pac-12 Network.