Oregon’s speed and athleticism are too much for UCLA in Bruins’ 86-72 loss at Eugene

Oregon forward Dwayne Benjamin drives down the lane against UCLA during the first half Saturday.

Oregon forward Dwayne Benjamin drives down the lane against UCLA during the first half Saturday.

(Ryan Kang / Associated Press)

EUGENE, Ore. — UCLA did not have much hope remaining with about two minutes left against Oregon on Saturday. Jordan Bell extinguished any that might have lingered.

A Ducks player drove into the lane and three UCLA defenders moved to cover him. Nobody saw Bell. He sneaked up the baseline, soared and slammed in a rebound. He flexed and yelled.

No one had come within several feet of Bell, so it was an apt close to UCLA’s 86-72 loss. Oregon’s athleticism was too much, UCLA’s defense too shaky and the rebounding margin too wide.


The Ducks outrebounded UCLA, 42-32, the Bruins’ biggest deficit all season. Eighteen of Oregon’s rebounds were on the offensive boards. UCLA gave up 17 second-chance points.

“We just got killed on the glass,” UCLA Coach Steve Alford said. “You give somebody like this on their home court 18 extra possessions or shots, it’s disastrous.”

UCLA (12-8, 3-4 in the Pac-12) had earned its first conference road victory on Wednesday at Oregon State. But the Bruins continue to flirt with exclusion from the NCAA tournament. They were one of the last four teams in ESPN’s latest tournament projections.

UCLA believed Wednesday’s game signaled a step forward defensively. Saturday halted the progress. UCLA gave up 1.3 points per possession, its worst mark this season.

The problems, Alford said, began with the missed rebounds. Oregon (16-4, 5-2) stole too many second-chance points. And the extra opportunities wore on the UCLA defense.

“It’s demoralizing,” Alford said. “And its breaks you down defensively,”

Oregon’s athleticism punished those breakdowns. UCLA has struggled against smaller, quicker teams for much of the season. On Saturday, center Tony Parker was forced to guard Dillon Brooks, who led Oregon with a game-high 25 points.

“Brooks is a 6-6 guard,” Alford said. “And Tony’s a 6-9, basically, center. Those are hard matchups.”

The Ducks penetrated easily and found clear airspace above the rim. They had nine dunks or tip-in baskets.

“Our help defense was not good at all,” Parker said.

Oregon used two runs, 8-0 and 9-0, early in the first half to build a cushion, but the Ducks’ break came when UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton picked up his third foul with about five minutes remaining before halftime.

Hamilton has been UCLA’s hottest player in conference play. Without him, the Bruins tried using three big men, with 6-foot-10 Gyorgy Goloman at small forward. Oregon ran past them.

UCLA called timeout. It quickly abandoned the big lineup.

Hamilton didn’t earn another foul, but he attempted just eight shots, fewer than any other starter, and managed 10 points. Guard Bryce Alford had another off night, shooting three for 13 and scoring 10 points. Thomas Welsh had 16, Parker 11.

Guard Aaron Holiday’s performance kept the Bruins close. Hamilton and Alford had drawn Oregon’s best defenders. They offered little help on Holiday. So the freshman atttacked, scoring a career-high 19 points, with five rebounds and five assists. He took defender Tyler Dorsey into the lane often, and he finished with confidence at the rim.

“You just try to feel it out,” Holiday said. “If them two aren’t scoring, I try to fill their stats for them.”

In the first half, after Welsh was blocked as the shot clock ticked down, Holiday scooped up the ball and fired a three-pointer. It went in as the timer buzzed.

Holiday drew UCLA within four points in the second half. And the Bruins’ seven-for-14 shooting from behind the arc provided a boost.

It was not enough. The Ducks did not relent, and UCLA had no answers for Oregon’s athletes.

Twitter: @zhelfand