Oregon in the Pits After UCLA’s Visit
Playing on Oregon’s McArthur Court can be an intimidating experience even for a team filled with seniors. And the UCLA Bruins are hardly that.
The Ducks’ home court has earned its nickname: The Pit.
Built in 1926, its three levels packed with nearly 10,000 green-and-yellow clad fans in close proximity to the floor, the decibel level cranked up to ear splitting whenever the ball is in play, McArthur Court often gives the Ducks a huge edge.
On Thursday night, UCLA shook off the pressure, the fans and the hostile conditions for a 56-49 victory over Oregon to remain unbeaten on the road and alone in first place in the Pacific 10 Conference with a 6-2 record. Overall, the 17th-ranked Bruins are 16-4.
UCLA is 4-0 on the road, neutral site games not included.
“We find a way to win on the road,” said sophomore guard Jordan Farmar. “That’s important because, in March, you are never at home.”
UCLA was led by freshman forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in both points (15) and rebounds (10).
But the key was defense. The Bruins held the Ducks (10-10, 4-4) to their lowest point total at home since the 1992-93 season. Overall, it was Oregon’s lowest total since 1998-99 and the Ducks were limited to 32.2% shooting from the floor, including three for 17 from three-point range.
Center Ryan Hollins was the only senior in the Bruin starting lineup, and he fouled out with just over 4 1/2 minutes to play. Senior wing Cedric Bozeman returned after sitting out eight games because of torn cartilage in the back of his left shoulder, but he was limited to 18 minutes because of the injury.
“I kept telling myself I had to get the experienced guys out there,” UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. “But then I said to myself, ‘You’re a moron. We don’t have many experienced guys,’ ”
Coming into the game, Oregon was 9-2 at home, including 3-0 in conference games.
The Ducks’ leading scorers coming in were forward Malik Hairston (15.2 points a game) and guard Aaron Brooks (11.7).
On Thursday night, Hairston had six points, all in the first half, and was three for eight from the field.
Brooks had eight points and was three for 10, including two for seven from three-point range.
A key moment came late in the first half. UCLA freshman guard Darren Collison had just had the ball stolen from him with Oregon’s Ivan Johnson converting on a slam dunk at the other end to push the Ducks into a 17-15 lead.
That’s when Bozeman announced his return in emphatic fashion. Taking his first and only shot of the first half, he made a three-pointer from the corner.
Despite his lack of offense, Bozeman made his presence felt on defense.
Three-pointers were a key factor in the first half for both teams. Oregon was 0 for 6; UCLA was four for eight, including an important one by freshman Michael Roll in the closing seconds of the half to give UCLA a 30-25 edge at intermission.
The Bruins came out cold in the second half, failing to score for more than four minutes. By then, the Ducks had moved into a 31-30 lead.
Howland did his best to create some intensity for his side, twice taking on the officials.
The first time was after Brooks, trying to slow down Farmar on a fast break, did so by grabbing his jersey from behind without getting a whistle.
Then Howland became animated again after he felt the shot clock froze while Oregon had the ball, remaining at 20 seconds for what he estimated was eight to 10 seconds.
Ultimately the Ducks couldn’t do enough when they had the ball, shot clock or no shot clock.
“Defense is what wins games,” Howland said, “especially in a tough place like this.”