UCLA has been one of the best teams in the nation at making up for slow starts during the 2012-13 college basketball season. In the 2013 Pac-12 tournament championship game, the Bruins didn't have enough to complete one more before the NCAA tournament.
The Oregon Ducks made sure that happened with an inspired, energetic performance that netted the school its first Pac-12 tournament championship since 2007.
Oregon used a strong first half (7-of-9 from three) and held on late behind Johnathan Loyd and Carlos Emory's combined 39 points off the bench to beat UCLA for the title, winning 78-69.
UCLA has been jaw-dropping in the second half of games this season, a fact that was cemented by yet another comeback win against Arizona to make the title game in the first place. However, Ben Howland's bunch left too steep a hill to climb in the end.
Emory had 20 points to lead the Ducks, and Loyd added 19. Each had two three-pointers in the first half, which helped the Ducks off to a fast start. With a nine-point halftime lead, Oregon showed the ability to play a half-court game in the second half and didn't make a three after the seven in the first.
UCLA's starters all scored in double figures, but the team sorely missed the production that Jordan Adams would have given them on a night like this. Adams, who had 24 points against Arizona, was out with a foot injury he suffered on the last play of UCLA's win on Friday. Unfortunately, it will require surgery.
Larry Drew II and Shabazz Muhammad both scored 14 points for the Bruins, who got just seven points from their bench in the loss.
Bill Walton was announcing the championship game on Saturday night, so you know the commentary was something special. Here's a piece of his analysis, courtesy of Brett Christie:
"Shabazz Muhammad hasn't learned how to substitute himself yet." Bill Walton's disdain of Ben Howland as a coach is unmatched.— Brett Christie (@Brett_Christie) March 17, 2013
Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette also enjoys Walton's basketball genius:
I have no rooting interest in this UCLA-Oregon game. But because Bill Walton is commentating, I am enthralled.— Mike Hlas (@Hlas) March 17, 2013
In case you missed it, here's a look at Arsalan Kazemi's steal and flush that helped get the momentum back in Oregon's favor, courtesy of the Pac-12 Twitter:
As noted by Colin Deaver, Loyd could be a huge name in college hoops later on after his big performance in this event:
The 2013 Pac-12 Tournament may become known as Johnathan Loyd's coming out party.— Colin Deaver (@ColinDeaver) March 17, 2013
Nicole Auerbach of USA Today was loving the way that the Ducks played on Saturday night, making a concession for the loss of Jordan Adams to a foot injury but also conjuring up memories of early games this season:
Oregon looks great. (I know, I know, no Jordan Adams. But still. Ducks look as good as they did two months ago.)— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 17, 2013
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA: B-
Muhammad is a lot of things, but he isn't the dominating force we all projected him to be as a freshman. Blame it on his early eligibility issues or the transition from high school, but Muhammad was supposed to be coming to school to help UCLA win games like these.
He didn't fare poorly, scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds. At times, he showed that he's a force to be reckoned with on the low block. But Muhammad has shown very little expansion in his offensive game during big moments, and picking up four fouls likely limited his effectiveness on both ends.
He shot 5-of-13 from the field and just 4-of-8 from the line.
Johnathan Loyd, Oregon: A
Loyd and Emory were the stars for Oregon, but Loyd and his 19 points stood out in a big way in the second half.
He was on the floor in crunch time and hit a big jumper that helped extend the Ducks lead late, playing an all-around crucial game for a team that now has an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament. If you haven't seen this guy play yet, pull up a chair.
He's got some game. We'll be looking forward to seeing him again in March Madness.
Should Kyle Anderson go pro next season?
Kyle Anderson, UCLA: C
Anderson has the potential to be a difference-maker in the tournament.
He still can be one, but he was just kind of there on Sunday night. Shooting 4-of-10 from the floor and scoring 11 points, he was just another average player for UCLA in an average performance.
At 6'9", he creates too many matchup problems that should have been taken advantage of, especially against an Oregon team that employs small guards.
Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon: B+
If you haven't seen this guy play, be warned—his game isn't pretty.
That being said, Kazemi provides a burst of energy that helps Oregon achieve its potential in big wins like this one. He had 12 points and 12 rebounds in a team-high 34 minutes, providing a level of energy that his teammates fed off in big moments.
It's the kind of energy they will need in March.