In a fight for Pac-12 relevancy, the Oregon Ducks survived a frenetic comeback from UCLA on Saturday night to win 94-91.
The Ducks leapt out to a quick lead, claiming a 17-point advantage late in the first half — an advantage that proved to be barely enough. UCLA fought back to within 3 but couldn’t put the comeback together. It was a much-needed win for Oregon, which entered the contest just 2-4 in Pac-12 play and a disappointing 12-7 on the year.
After losing three of the past four, the Ducks’ win pushes them to 13-7 with a home game against Oregon State a week away.
Three things we learned from the win:
Oregon’s press was its best offense
The first half was a track meet for the Ducks, as they reeled off 52 points in the first 20 minutes. Some of this was done in the half-court, but the majority of the damage was done via the press, which UCLA struggled mightily with. The Bruins had 8 turnovers in the first half, resulting in easy buckets the other way for the Ducks.
“UCLA is running backwards while the Ducks are flying downhill,” Bill Walton said, in one of his more coherent thoughts of the night.
It’s an adequate summation of the first half, and the majority of the game as a whole for Oregon’s offense.
Payton Pritchard is lethal in transition
The final score doesn’t suggest it, but Oregon’s offense often grew stagnant at times in the half-court. As mentioned above, the press resulted in a number of easy baskets, but so, too, did its blink-and-you-missed-it transition offense, led, namely, by Payton Pritchard, who finished with a game-high 25 points.
When the Ducks were able to secure a clean rebound and outlet it to Pritchard, the result was almost a foregone conclusion: Pritchard layup, Pritchard dish to a layup or two Oregon free throws. It’s why the Bruins were saddled with foul trouble early, and one of the primary reasons Oregon was able to jump out to such a quick lead, able to simply maintain it the rest of the way.
Victor Bailey had his breakout game
Victor Bailey was the No. 85-ranked recruit for the Class of 2017, a 4-star Texas native who was, reasonably, expected to make significant contributions this season. And he did at first, scoring 15, 16, and 18 in three of the Ducks’ first four games.
And then he disappeared. As shots stopped falling, his minutes waned, and he failed to reach double figures in eight of the nine games preceding Saturday night’s matchup with UCLA.
In the first half alone, Bailey poured in 15 en route to 18 for the night.
It was all Ducks in the opening half against UCLA. @VBailey_BallIsL with a team-high 15 points, three shy of his career-high. UO with 14 assists and no turnovers in the first half. #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/r8NpLmeL0Q
— Oregon Men's Basketball (@OregonMBB) January 21, 2018