What was supposed to be a walk in the park for the UCLA Bruins turned into a mugging, as the No. 7 University of Oregon Ducks crushed the No. 2 UCLA Bruins at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
With the hopes of improving their NCAA tournament seed, the Bruins came out flat and then kicked it down a few more notches. The game was never close, and the Ducks steadily pulled away from UCLA, leading by 14 at the half.
Twice before, the Ducks had led the Bruins at halftime this season, and twice before, the Bruins had rallied to win. The third time was not a charm for UCLA as Oregon continued to expand their lead to as many as 22 points in the second half, and won easily by 17: 76-59.
UCLA were mentally beaten and had given up this game almost from the get-go. Their Achilles-heel exposed once again, the smaller Ducks pounded the bigger Bruins in the paint seemingly at will.
Demonstrating the classic example of how a determined team can overcome a more talented team, Oregon outplayed UCLA in every facet of the game. The Ducks were quicker to the ball, their passes connected, their defense was stifling, and their shooting was lights-out.
The only area of the game where UCLA out-performed Oregon was under the basket, as UCLA grabbed 34 rebounds to the Ducks' 29.
Simply put, the Ducks just wanted it more than the Bruins.
As for UCLA, they were stymied once again due to their lack of a true point guard, or anyone for that matter, who could dribble the ball. Without the ability to beat defenders on the dribble, UCLA was forced to play a perimeter game.
They could never take advantage of their superior size. If a pass happened to stray into the key, it was usually gobbled up by a hungry Duck.
On offense, there was little to no movement without the ball, no passing except for the perimeter, no set plays, and an abundance of mental errors that resulted in a plethora of unforced turnovers and abysmal shooting.
Each player seemed, once again, to want to take on the opposition single handedly. Instead of a team, the Bruins played as five individuals.
It begs the question: Where is John Wooden and his Pyramid of Success, and why are the Bruins ignoring it?
On defense, the Bruins seemed unable to keep up with the smaller Ducks.
They were beaten down low, up high, and on the perimeter. There was no defensive help, no rotation. Oregon just put the ball on the floor and drove around the man coverage all the way to the hoop all game long.
UCLA had no answer.
The Pac-10’s top defensive unit failed to show up for this game, and seemed to phone in the performance.
Perhaps they were too cocky. Perhaps they were looking past the Ducks to either of the Washington teams—one of which they would have faced, had they won this game.
Or perhaps a lackluster, unfocused, unprepared group of young men just got throttled by a better team.
If UCLA want to do any damage in the NCAA tournament, they had better learn how to play together as a team—and they had better learn quickly.