LAS VEGAS -- The good UCLA basketball team showed up Thursday night.
There were smiles. There were dunks. There was even Kyle Anderson hugging Travis Wear after a fastbreak layup.
This was the Bruins' rolling thunder review. The 82-63 victory over Oregon in the MGM Grand Garden Arena left Coach Steve Alford with a lucky 7-0 record for Las Vegas postseason games — six with New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament.
Yet, the Bruins have stood on this precipice before this season. It's when the bad UCLA team surfaces, that rolling blunder review.
They have dropped the second game away from Los Angeles in four previous trips during Pac-12 play.
UCLA (24-8) goes once more unto the breach against Stanford on Friday. Beyond that, a possible rematch with fourth-ranked Arizona in the final. The Bruins lost their only game against the Wildcats.
“We know what we're chasing,” David Wear said. “We know we've got two more games to get hold of that trophy. If Arizona is there at the end of it, we're looking forward to it.”
First, though, comes the semifinal.
“If we lose, we go back to L.A. and sit around waiting for March Madness,” Wear said. “You want to take advantage of this opportunity and not let it slip away.”
The Bruins have done that on four previous occasions.
“We get another chance to prove ourselves in the second game,” Anderson said.
“We have to sustain the effort,” he said.
The effort was good Thursday.
Anderson had a cattle-prod-like effect on the Bruins late in the first half. He was scoreless the first 17 minutes, then ran off seven points. The last two came on a big dunk to give the Bruins a 37-35 halftime lead.
“I knew had to do something to give my team an edge,” Anderson said. “It all happened so fast. I went up as high as I could and came down so excited. I have had dunks, but nothing like that. It was pretty nasty.”
Nothing was the same after that. The Bruins opened the second half with a 14-2 run and buried the Ducks with a tag-team effort. They had five players in double figures — Jordan Adams (15), Travis Wear (14), Zach LaVine (14), David Wear (11) and Anderson (11).
This was, in part, the product of drawing the perfect opponent. Oregon (23-9) may have won eight consecutive games, but it wanted to run. That was Ducks on the pond for the Bruins, who live for transition, and did it far more effectively, shooting 57% to Oregon's 44%.
“We love playing Oregon,” LaVine said. “You prepare yourself for their energy and their antics and go play.”
UCLA led by as many as 20 points in the second half.
“We started exploiting things at the offensive end,” Alford said. “But we've been pretty good most of the year coming out of halftime.”
What UCLA hasn't been good at is refocusing for that next game away from home.
The Bruins lost their last regular-season game at Washington State, with the perfect display of bad basketball.
“We go into that last weekend and our seed [for the Pac-12 tournament] is not going to get any better,” Alford said. “It's really about trying to enhance your resume for the NCAA tournament. Nobody's talking about you from a national standpoint. There were a lot of things going against us.”
That explains Washington State. But the Bruins also lost at Utah, Oregon State and Stanford.
Each time, the Bruins swore they would be focused and forceful.
“That's part of the deal this time,” Anderson said. “We can't talk about it now. We've just got to be about it.”
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