Step in wrong direction
LOS ANGELES — Frustration wasn’t the right word to describe the emotion in Oregon’s locker room, Paul White said Saturday.
“It’s just tough to know we’re one step away from getting over that hump,” the Oregon junior forward said after UCLA beat the Ducks 86-78 in overtime at Pauley Pavilion. “Frustration comes with failure and that sort of thing. We take everything as a lesson to use as a steppingstone to get where we need to be.”
MiKyle McIntosh used that same line.
“It is definitely a steppingstone,” the senior forward said. “I feel like this team showed a lot of heart and competed on the road. We improved, even though it didn’t come with wins.”
Those comments may have sounded more encouraging in November or December, but the Ducks are running out of time to extend their season into the NCAA Tournament for the sixth year in a row after being swept at USC and UCLA.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to win our share of close ones, especially on the road,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “This year, we just are not making the plays to win those close games.”
The most notable missed opportunity for the Ducks came at the end of regulation when they got the ball underneath their own basket with 5.8 seconds remaining and the game tied 71-71. Payton Pritchard inbounded the ball to Elijah Brown, who missed an off-balance three-pointer as time expired.
“I thought we could catch them on the inbound play there on a screen, but we didn’t get a very good screen to get Elijah open,” Altman said. “If he didn’t have a good look he was supposed to drive and he didn’t get a very good look. That’s on me, we’ve got to get a better look than that.”
Prince Ali made a three-pointer to open overtime for UCLA and after Pritchard answered for the Ducks, Aaron Holiday converted a three-point play. Gyorgy Goloman made a free throw and Jaylen Hands added another three-pointer to put UCLA ahead 81-73.
Elijah Brown made a three-pointer and McIntosh drove to get the Ducks within 81-78. White had a chance to tie the game on a three-pointer with 43 seconds remaining, but he missed and the Bruins sealed the game with free throws.
“We lost a couple close ones here we really needed,” Altman said. “We didn’t get the stops and didn’t get the rebounds we needed to get it done.”
Oregon arrived in town tied for fourth place in the conference, but following a last-second 72-70 loss at USC on Thursday and the overtime defeat to the Bruins, the Ducks return home tied for seventh with Arizona State at 7-7.
Pritchard had 23 points and five assists to lead the Ducks while McIntosh and Elijah Brown each finished with 19 points as the Ducks (17-10) shot 40.5 percent from the field.
The Ducks, who led the conference with a free-throw percentage of 77.9, finished 5-for-11 as all five Ducks who attempted a free throw missed at least one. McIntosh missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity on Oregon’s first possession of overtime.
“We have shot free throws so well and tonight we could have used them,” Altman said.
Oregon led 14-8 before the Bruins took a 40-35 lead at the half. After the Ducks closed within 50-48, UCLA scored on four straight possessions culminating with a basket from Holiday to take a 59-48 lead with 12:22 left to play.
Holiday was called for an offensive foul on the next possession, his fourth of the game that sent him to the bench.
McIntosh scored on Oregon’s next possession and added a three-pointer before Pritchard made a three-pointer to get the Ducks within 59-56. Elijah Brown tied the game with a three-pointer and drove to put the Ducks up 61-59 before Holiday came back into the game.
White made one of two free throws to give Oregon a 67-64 lead with 2:49 to play before Welsh hit a jumper and Hands followed with a three-pointer to put the Bruins up 69-67. Troy Brown drove to tie the game and following a basket by Holiday, McIntosh drove for a hoop that tied the game 71-71 with 48 seconds remaining.
Kris Wilkes had a three-pointer bounce off the rim as Oregon took possession with 33.5 seconds remaining. McIntosh drove to the hoop again and missed a shot that went out of bounds to the Ducks before Elijah Brown’s miss sent the game into overtime.
“We didn’t shoot our best, but we grinded it out and played good defense,” McIntosh said. “Down 11, we came back and competed, but just didn’t win.”
Holiday had a game-high 29 points including five three-pointers as the Bruins (19-8, 10-5) made 16-of-33 shots from behind the arc. Wilkes added 19 points while Welsh had 14 points and 14 rebounds to help the Bruins to a 46-37 advantage on the boards.