UCLA wipes out 19-point deficit to defeat Oregon, 82-79
Lonzo Ball evaded the defender with a stepback move, coolly launching the 30-foot jumper from the left side of his head. He stood impassively as the shot sailed through the air in a high arc, his team’s fortunes riding the same trajectory.
The ball swished through the net. Ball could no longer restrain himself.
The UCLA freshman point guard repeatedly flicked his wrist, pointing toward the court and yelling something that required a lip reader to decipher because it could not be heard above the roar of the Pauley Pavilion crowd amid his team’s frenzied rally.
“You’ve got to watch the tape,” Ball quipped afterward when asked about what he said after his three-pointer with 32 seconds left had given the Bruins a five-point lead.
The final minutes said plenty about Ball and No. 10 UCLA after it zipped past No. 5 Oregon for an improbable 82-79 victory Thursday night during a game it once trailed by 19 points.
“Wow!” Bruins Coach Steve Alford said the moment he sat down in the interview room, his team having wiped out a 15-point deficit over the final 14 minutes.
Wow, indeed. Ball’s brilliance on offense and defense sparked a comeback for the ages in a game the Bruins trailed for more than 35 minutes. They outscored Oregon, 43-31, in the second half after Ball switched onto Ducks forward Dillon Brooks for the final 15 minutes, holding him scoreless the rest of the way after Brooks had scored 19 points in the first 25 minutes.
Ball also outmaneuvered Oregon’s Dylan Ennis for two critical baskets, including a driving layup that gave UCLA (22-3 overall, 9-3 Pac-12 Conference) a 77-72 lead with 1:10 left and the three-pointer that essentially sealed the fate of the Ducks (21-4, 10-2).
“Step-back is one of my favorite shots,” said Ball, who finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and a career-low one assist to go with his three turnovers. “I knew the time was winding down and once I got it off, it felt good.”
The good vibes extended to a sellout crowd that included Magic Johnson and Tommy Lasorda on a night the Bruins honored Dick Enberg by naming the media room after the legendary broadcaster. Fans buzzed over the game’s final 12 minutes after UCLA renewed its commitment to defense after a stern lecture from Alford early in the second half.
“I’m like, guys we just played three minutes, they’ve scored 11,” Alford said he told his players in a timeout huddle. “‘We’re going to give up 70 [in this half]. This is embarrassing.’ For whatever reason, they got it.”
The Bruins’ determination could be seen in shooting guard Bryce Alford slapping the court with both hands near half court and power forward TJ Leaf executing the same move near the three-point line. Oregon shot only 33.3% from the field and the three-point line in the second half.
“He just told us to be tough,” Bruins guard Aaron Holiday said of the coach’s message. “We know we can score with all the best teams in the country, so it’s about being tough on the defensive end and that’s what we focused on.”
Holiday had 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench and Bryce Alford and Thomas Welsh had 12 points apiece for the Bruins, who largely wiped out the memory of a late collapse against Oregon two months ago with their comeback.
Tyler Dorsey scored 19 points for the Ducks, whose chance to send the game into overtime fizzled when Payton Pritchard missed a three-pointer with one second left.
The game’s first 13 1/2 minutes couldn’t have gone much worse for UCLA. The most telling sequence came when Leaf committed his second foul on a charging call that negated a basket and left the game, only for replacement Gyorgy Goloman to get ferociously dunked on by Brooks.
The Ducks led by as many as 19 points and did not commit a turnover until Bryce Alford poked the ball away from Ennis with less than five minutes left in the first half. Alford also scored nine points during UCLA’s 14-0 run late in the half that enlivened the crowd and pulled the Bruins to within five before the Ducks took a 48-39 advantage into halftime.
Two anomalies were telling: The Bruins had no fastbreak points by then and Ball had zero assists. He followed perhaps his worst half with one of his best, particularly in the final minutes.
“That’s my time,” Ball said, “to do what I gotta do.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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