Slow start costs UCLA in Pac-10 tournament loss to Oregon
It’s going to be a long weekend for UCLA even though the Bruins will not play again.
They will have the next 72 hours to mull a foible-filled 76-59 loss to Oregon on Thursday at Staples Center in the Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals, the second-seeded Bruins playing as if they were somehow owed a victory over the seventh-seeded Ducks.
FOR THE RECORD:
UCLA-Oregon basketball: In the March 11 Sports section, an article about UCLA’s 76-59 loss to Oregon in the Pacific 10 tournament quarterfinals said that forward E.J. Singler made a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Oregon a 38-24 halftime lead. It was his teammate Garrett Sim who made the shot. —
“They had the mentality that they didn’t have anything to lose,” UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt said. “We came in here with a ‘too cool’ of an attitude.”
The nonchalance resulted in another sluggish start and possibly the most mortifying moment of Coach Ben Howland’s UCLA tenure, when the Bruins received a technical foul in the first half for having six players on the court after a timeout.
“That was embarrassing,” Howland said. “That right there was like indicative of the night. That that could actually happen is unbelievable.”
Some people never learn, it seems.
That Oregon (16-16) could hand UCLA (22-10) its worst loss of the season resulted in part from the Bruins’ seasonlong habit of slow starts finally catching up with them. The Ducks used a 14-1 surge over a 4½-minute stretch late in the first half to take a 15-point lead.
Even before then, it seemed clear the Bruins weren’t matching Oregon’s intensity. Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson, UCLA’s leading scorer, went scoreless in the first half and finished with seven mostly meaningless points.
“Just started from warmups,” said Honeycutt, who scored 19 points but was the only Bruin in double figures. “Guys weren’t taking, like, game shots, weren’t really being focused.”
The Ducks will play Washington in a semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Oregon spread the floor in the early going and repeatedly beat UCLA off the dribble for layups. Forward E.J. Singler scored 11 of his career-high 24 points in the first half, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer that gave the Ducks a 38-24 halftime lead.
The Bruins never came within single digits again, a brief attempt to pound the ball inside early in the second half proving futile.
“It just stinks knowing a team is beating you the way they were beating us,” Bruins freshman center Joshua Smith said, “and we weren’t doing anything about it.”
UCLA’s Malcolm Lee gutted out 28 minutes in his first game since being diagnosed with torn cartilage in his left knee, but the junior guard wasn’t much of a factor on offense, taking only three shots and scoring six points.
Nelson compounded his poor first half by receiving a technical foul in the second half for complaining about a non-call underneath the basket.
“That was just me losing my cool for a little bit,” he said.
Howland, who said the defeat “starts with me,” held a lengthy closed-door meeting with his players after the game. “The No. 1 thing I tried to talk about with our team is that everybody’s got to come right back and put it right here as to our performance tonight,” he said, pointing to his heart.
The Bruins were considered an NCAA tournament lock by most prognosticators regardless of their performance in the Pac-10 tournament, but their seeding will certainly suffer in the wake of the early exit.
“I don’t know how they do things for the NCAA tournament,” guard Lazeric Jones said, “but I know it will probably hurt us.”
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