Tyger Campbell wanted it to end. The UCLA point guard had watched the Bruins turn the ball over on four of their previous five possessions and was ready to re-enter the game to help steady his teammates against Oregon’s pressure.
He just forgot to remind teammate Jules Bernard that he was taking his spot in the lineup.
After Campbell and Bernard both walked onto the court coming out of the timeout huddle in the first half Sunday afternoon, officials noticed that UCLA had six players in the game, leading to a technical foul and audible amusement among the crowd inside Matthew Knight Arena.
“That’s one way to try to break the press,” one fan yelled.
It was the low point amid a menagerie of mistakes that gave the Bruins no chance during a 96-75 loss to the No. 12 Ducks that served as a marathon’s worth of backward steps from their recent uptick in play.
UCLA played in the game’s early going as if it was compiling a manual on all the wrong ways to counteract a full-court press.
Guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. stepped through a double team and threw the ball out of bounds. Guard Chris Smith had a lazy pass stolen and compounded his mistake by committing a foul on the resulting layup. Jaquez threw what should have been a simple inbounds pass in the backcourt that skipped past David Singleton out of bounds.
A little over 14 minutes into the first half, UCLA’s 14 turnovers matched its point total. The Bruins (10-10 overall, 3-4 Pac-12 Conference) were already down by 23 points and any thoughts of extending their two-game winning streak were essentially over.
Forward Jalen Hill let out a long sigh when asked what happened given that the Bruins had spent much of their practices the previous two days preparing for the press.
“We kind of got punched in the mouth real early,” Hill said, “and we didn’t punch back.”
The Bruins eventually finished with a season-high 23 turnovers while also giving up a season high for points. It didn’t help that they were missing their primary ballhandler for most of the game after Campbell suffered a left hip injury only 15 seconds after his team earned the technical foul for having one player too many on the court.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin noted that the communication breakdown could also be pinned on his staff for failing to make sure Bernard knew he was out of the game. A far bigger issue was the Bruins’ failure to aggressively attack the press, allowing the Ducks (17-4, 6-2) to continually intensify their pressure.
“When you play sideways and telegraph your passes against the press,” Cronin said, “teams don’t have to protect the rim, so they just come harder and harder up.”
UCLA yielded 48 points by halftime, nearly exceeding the average of 49 points it had given up in its two most recent games. Of course, a big part of the issue was the Ducks scoring 20 of those points off UCLA’s 14 turnovers while building a 48-26 halftime advantage.
“You turn it over that much, it kills the team’s morale a lot,” Hill said. “It sucks. I mean, you can’t score off a turnover. At least if you take bad shots you have a chance for the ball to go in or for somebody to get the rebound. Turnovers, especially — we call them turnovers for touchdowns — it just hurts the team. You can’t set up defense, it’s basically just free points.”
Generating points was a prolonged struggle for UCLA given its inability to get the ball past midcourt. The Bruins also committed a handful of turnovers in the frontcourt, including Smith traveling on a spin move and forward Cody Riley losing the ball while trying to make his own move toward the basket.
Guard Jake Kyman finished with 20 points on seven-for-11 shooting and Hill added 16 to lead the Bruins, who were blown out despite making 50% of their shots, 41.7% of their three-pointers and 81.3% of their free throws.
“It’s a great lesson for our team,” Cronin said. “You don’t defend, you don’t take care of the ball, you’ve got no chance.”
Chris Duarte scored 20 of his 24 points in the first half and made six steals for the Ducks, who shot 57.1% on the way to improving to 12-0 at home this season.
One of UCLA’s final mistakes came when Singleton turned the ball over on an inbounds pass, leading Cronin to replace him with walk-on Russell Stong. The Bruins were in need of creative solutions after all the work they put in trying to break the press in practice failed to produce dividends.
“We looked like a really young and inexperienced team out there, which is disappointing,” Cronin said. “I know we are, but I was hoping we were past all that.”