GAME NOTES: Differing motives will fuel each team in a Pac-12 Conference melee between the Oregon Ducks and the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA fell in an 83-74 final against Stanford last Saturday, ending a stretch of four straight wins for the Bruins. However, they are trying to do much more than bounce back from a loss on Thursday. With only four games to play, the Bruins are sitting two games back of third-ranked Arizona for the top spot in the Pac-12 (10-4), so these last few games, the next of which is against Oregon State, are crucial
There is just as much, if not more, pressure on Oregon as the finish line nears. The Ducks, once a mainstay in the Top-25, have resurrected their NCAA Tournament hopes in recent weeks with three straight wins. They are now 18-8 overall, although a 6-8 success rate against the rest of the Pac-12 is still a glaring blemish on their resume'. They take on USC next.
The first matchup between these teams this season did not lack for drama. With the score tied at 68-68 in crunch time, Travis Wear hit a layup following a UCLA offensive rebound. Then Kyle Anderson blocked a 3-point attempt from Johnathan Loyd at the other end to give UCLA a hard-earned victory.
Defense, rather than their normal high-octane offensive attack, pushed Oregon to a 67-53 rout of Washington State last time it hit the floor. The Ducks limited the Cougars to only 15 field goals on 32.6 percent shooting, while outscoring them off turnovers, 24-7.
Showing some strength at the defensive end was a good sign for Oregon, which has been extremely potent offensively, but has struggled to put together stops at times. For the season, they rank second in the Pac-12 and 11th nationally in scoring (82.8 ppg), while shooting a solid 47.1 percent from the field. Joseph Young (18.6 ppg) is the most prolific offensive weapon the Ducks have. He ranks third in the Pac-12 in scoring and is coming off another strong performance against Washington State where he tallied 18 points. Mike Moser (13.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg), who poured in a game-high 21 points against the Cougars, Jason Calliste (11.8 ppg) and Damyean Dotson (10.7 ppg) also figure into the mix.
Playing at Maples Pavilion is a tough task, and UCLA found out why in its recent setback against Stanford. The Bruins allowed their hosts to shoot an astounding 62.2 percent from the field, while being outscored, 33-18, from 3- point range. Norman Powell and Zach LaVine each netted 14 points for the Bruins, who connected on an uncharacteristic 44.8 percent from the floor.
On most nights, UCLA has no problem sinking shots. In fact, the Bruins are eighth in the country in field goal percentage (.495). They are also a top-10 squad in scoring (82.9 ppg) and assists (17.6 apg), leading the Pac-12 in each category. Jordan Adams (17.2 ppg) is the leader, but mainly as a scorer, although he does lead the Pac-12 in steals (2.9 spg). The real anchor for the team is Kyle Anderson (14.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 6.9 apg), who provides production in just about every phase of the game. Not only does he score at a solid rate, but he is also the league leader in assists and among the top-five in rebounds. Powell (11.2 ppg) and LaVine (10.6 ppg) are also viable scoring threats.
The Bruins' loss to Stanford can be chalked up to an off night on the road. Oregon may have a great deal of firepower, but it won't have enough to get past the best offensive team in the conference on its home floor.
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