With the conference season reaching the halfway mark, Oregon finally put together a full 40 minutes of solid basketball and the result was an 82-64 thumping of UCLA in front of 7,301 inside Matthew Knight Arena Saturday afternoon.
The win gave the Ducks a 4-3 conference mark and 14-6 overall. It also completed a weekend sweep over Los Angeles schools, a sweep Oregon needed after going win-less in Washington. UCLA’s troubles continue, dropping to 3-4 in Pac-12 play and just 11-9 overall.
In Oregon’s last contest, the first four minutes was nearly perfect basketball, but against UCLA, it was the entire game. The Bruins never had a chance as the Ducks were hitting shot after shot after shot.
At one point in the first half, the Ducks were shooting 80 percent from the field and we are not talking 4-of-5. Oregon sank 16 of its first 20 shots, including its first six from three-point land to take a commanding 42-21 lead at the 3:59 mark in the first half.
“Well I think all the made baskets provide a lot of energy. I thought our ball movement was really good and we’ve been taking some quick shots,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We really talked the past couple of days about if we didn’t like what we got in transition, make them guard a little bit more. I liked some of our possessions. They went longer and I thought we got better shots because of it.”
What was even more impressive for the Ducks was that it wasn’t just one guy that was hot. Seemingly everyone that was wearing an Oregon uniform couldn’t miss.
The final box score says Joseph Young led Oregon with 16 points, but he was just one of five Ducks in double figures. Dwayne Benjamin came off the bench to score 15. The junior college transfer was perfect from the field going 6-of-6 and sinking a trio of threes.
Elgin Cook scored 11, while Ahmaad Rorie and Jalil Abdul-Bassit added 10. Dillon Brooks came off the bench to score eight and Jordan Bell filled the stat sheet with six points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
After shooting 80 percent for much of the first half, the only way to go was down. But even then, Oregon was at the 70 percent mark for much of the game. The Ducks wound up shooting 62 percent, going 33-of-63 from the field and 9-of-13 from long range.
Normal Powell and Bryce Alford kept UCLA in the game with their shooting prowess or the Bruins would have been run out of the gym. Powell led the way with 23, Alford 15 with Kevin Looney also scoring 15 before fouling out.
Benjamin’s first three-pointer at the 10:03 mark gave Oregon a 23-12 lead. The Ducks’ lead never went under 10 from that point on.
Oregon held a 20-point lead on two different occasions. The Bruins did pull to within 13 early in the second half, but the Ducks answered every single time UCLA made a run.
Coach Steve Alford’s halftime adjustment on the offensive end was to drive to the hoop on nearly every single possession and for the first seven minutes of the second half, it worked.
Oregon countered by going to a zone and that slowed the Bruins’ offense.
“Well we talked about not letting them get easy baskets, then they shot three layups at the start of the second half,” Altman said. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t let them get back in the game and giving up those baskets would be the quickest way to let them back into the game.
“We just did a little better job of hedging some of the ball screens. I thought Jordan got a little more active. Elgin did a nice job of hedging some of those ball screens. So, I think we just picked it up and did a little better job.”
UCLA tried several things on defense, but nothing worked. The Bruins didn’t slow Oregon down at all. Benjamin’s rebound-reverse dunk gave the Ducks a 76-55 lead with 6:45 left. The Ducks knew they had the game and pumped the brakes on the offensive end from that point on.
The Ducks now face two tough road tests in Arizona with the Wildcats on the docket Wednesday night and Arizona State Friday. Oregon lost to Arizona 80-62 Jan. 8, but rebounded to defeat ASU 59-56 two days later.
~ Don Smalley