by Rob Moseley
For as dramatic as the final minutes of Oregon's 70-68 loss to UCLA on Thursday were, the big-picture reality is a harsh one.
By dropping a heartbreaker to the Bruins on Travis Wear's layup with 5.3 seconds left, the Ducks lost for the sixth time in seven games. The lone win in that stretch, last week at Washington State, was Oregon's only regulation victory in the month of January, as the once 13-0 Ducks fell to 14-6 overall, 2-6 in the Pac-12.
The Ducks have a chance to turn the page on the first day of February, against USC on Saturday evening. But they'd hoped to do so in Thursday's homecoming from a three-game road trip, only to have Wear score the game-winner and Kyle Anderson block Johnathan Loyd's attempt to force overtime.
"It was a big opportunity, especially when we came back (from an early second-half deficit)," UO coach Dana Altman said. "Really had some good defensive possessions and got the lead there. That would have been a great opportunity for us. Now it's (time to) battle back."
Oregon did so Thursday, after allowing a 13-2 UCLA run coming out of halftime that gave the Bruins a 45-38 lead. That was "the difference in the game," Altman said, even though the Ducks were able to battle back into a 49-49 tie, and later scored 14 straight for a late 68-65 lead.
All that battling may have taken too much of a toll, however. Because the final minute, which began with that 68-65 lead for Oregon, was all UCLA.
Anderson missed the front end of a one-and-one and Oregon was given possession when the ball went out of bounds … but officials reversed the call based on replay.
The Bruins weren't able to convert … but then with the game tied 68-68, Jason Calliste had a three-pointer roll around and out.
UCLA missed on the other end and Richard Amardi rebounded for the Ducks … but UCLA forced a jump ball, kept possession and got the go-ahead basket after Wear snared another loose ball.
Oregon took over with just seconds left and Loyd drove the floor, his face covered by a protective mask after he broke his nose in practice Tuesday. Altman wanted him to drive and dish to Joseph Young for the final shot, but Loyd found himself in traffic and forced up the shot that Anderson blocked — and Wear would have, had not his teammate tipped it first.
"We were hoping he'd make a play there for Joe," Altman said.
Young was frustrated by the Ducks' unwillingness to attack UCLA's zone to open the second half — Oregon missed five threes during the Bruins' 13-2 run — and with the inability to come up with possession after Anderson's missed free throw, or when Amardi was tied up.
"That's just toughness plays we need to get," Young said. "We've got to get tough."
Loyd showed himself to be so, two days after the broken nose and one day after corrective surgery. He played 22 minutes but struggled to an 0-of-6 shooting night.
Loyd at least hit two free throws; three Oregon starters — Mike Moser, Ben Carter and Dominic Artis — finished scoreless, on a combined four shots. Moser's shooting slump has reached four games, while Artis — a potential key to the game given Loyd's injury — played only 11 minutes, including two in the second half.
"We weren't very well organized," Altman said. "We had bad possessions, bad turnovers."
While Moser continued to struggle, Young at least broke out of his own four-game slump, leading the Ducks with 25 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Calliste added 21 on 6-of-11 shooting, and has now made better than half his shots in five straight.
There was that three-point attempt that rolled out for Calliste in the final minute, however, one of several plays that didn't go Oregon's way down the stretch Thursday. A chance to win two straight was squandered, and the Ducks go back to the drawing board looking to turn around a season that once held such promise.
"It's tough, but we've got to get over it," Young said. "We've got USC coming up. We've got to just practice hard (Friday), get ready for USC, put this behind us and go from there."
NOTES: Young made 10-of-10 from the free-throw line. He has led the Ducks in scoring 10 times and has scored 20 or more points in eight games this season. … Calliste marked his second straight game with at least 20 points. … The Ducks went 18-of-19 from the free-throw line, making all 12 attempts in the second half. … Oregon has led at halftime in the past three games, after opening Pac-12 play by trailing at half in its first five games. … The Ducks turned UCLA’s Anderson over nine times — a Matt Knight Arena record for individual turnovers in a game. … Oregon has received 30 or more bench points in the past three contests, vs. Washington (37), Washington State (31) and UCLA (36).