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February 23, 2008
UCLA battles back to beat Oregon
LOS ANGELES UCLA escaped a potentially damaging loss by going back to basics. With the Bruins' offense languishing, they turned it up on defense.
The Bruins (24-3, 12-2) extended their lead in the Pac-10 to 1 1/2 games over No. 9 Stanford, which plays California on Sunday.
UCLA was facing a defeat that could have jeopardized its hopes of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before Westbrook helped ignite the 38-17 game-ending run.
"If they knock us off on our home floor that really propels them to an NCAA tournament bid," Bruins coach Ben Howland said. "We understand that's how they looked at it. They were geared up and ready to play us."
"We were pretty concerned," Love said. "We had to have a sense of urgency and we needed to keep fighting."
Maarty Leunen had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Oregon (15-12, 6-9), which has lost eight of 11, including Thursday's game at Southern California after leading by 13 points. Malik Hairston added 16 points and Taj Porter had 15.
"We just gave one away," Leunen said. "We had momentum pretty much the whole game until the last 10 minutes and they made their run. Like UCLA does, they just turn up their defense a notch and you just got to match that. That's why they've been to two Final Fours."
Getting swept in Los Angeles kept the Ducks in the bottom half of the Pac-10 standings and puts them on the NCAA tourney bubble.
"We lost big opportunities this weekend," said Leunen, whose mood was as dark as the Ducks' new all-black uniforms in which only numbers and not names were visible.
The Ducks were in control for virtually the entire first half and into the second before UCLA stepped up its defense, which in turn sparked its offense.
"Anytime we're down, we got to be patient," Collison said. "We can't get rattled. Our defense won the game. Our offense wasn't doing so well."
The Bruins were a different team the first 20 minutes. They played lethargic defense, got outrebounded and didn't have a single player score in double figures. Leunen's 3-pointer in the closing seconds put Oregon ahead 34-31 at the break.
"We had an excellent game plan," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. "We executed it for the first 30 minutes. Unfortunately, a basketball game is 40 minutes. We played one of our best games against one of the top teams in the country, but our poise has got to be a lot better in the stretch."
Love had the ball stolen by Bryce Taylor on UCLA's first possession of the second half. Westbrook missed two easy layups that had the crowd groaning and went down in a heap on the second one. He rolled over on the court, but soon got up and jogged on the sideline before returning.
The Ducks outscored the Bruins 14-6, including two 3-pointers by Leunen, to lead 48-37.
But momentum swung UCLA's way and stayed there in the game-closing run. Hairston, Taylor and Joevan Catron picked up their third fouls during UCLA's spurt.
The Bruins' offensive outburst coincided with more aggressive defense. Collison stole the ball and sent a long pass to Westbrook, who dunked for UCLA's first lead, 54-53, since the game's opening minutes.
"You can't really take charges on him because he's going to go vertical and dunk on you," Love said.
Love ended up on the court a couple of times down the stretch, including falling on his back while grabbing a rebound and getting called for traveling.
"I mostly fell on my (right) elbow," he said. "It's no excuse for missing my free throws and going 4-for-10 (from the field)."
The Ducks tied the game at 54 on a free throw by Hairston, but had just five field goals in the game-breaking stretch.
The Bruins drove to the basket, got fouled and finished 21-of-31 from the line.