LOS ANGELES — Oregon just opened a door. Now we have to see who steps forward, Washington or Washington State?
The No. 7 seeded Ducks (15-16) knocked off the No. 2 seeded UCLA tonight, 76-59. E.J. Singler, who had a career-high 22 Wednesday in a 76-69 victory over Arizona State, had another career-high 24 against the Bruins (22-10). They held the Bruins to just 25 percent shooting (6 of 24) in the first half.
Oregon now advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2007. Their opponent will be the winner of the late-night Washington-Washington State game. No matter what, when UCLA is eliminated that makes the path to the title game easier for everyone.
The Ducks, who entered the tournament on a four-game slide, had twice lost to the Bruins this season, but both were close, 67-59 at home and 64-54 at Pauley. So in at least once instance, confirms the argument that it’s difficult to beat a team three times in a season.
The Cougars have beaten the Huskies already twice this season.
“They were frustrated throughout the whole game,” said Singler, whose older brother Kyle plays for Duke. We were executing offensive and defensively. That happens in games. You just have to play through it. UCLA got frustrated and down and we took advantage.”
The biggest shot of the game may have been taken by Garrett Sim just as time expired in the first half. He took the inbounds pass with fewer than four seconds on the clock. He dribbed across the halfway line, split two defenders and put up a 28-footer just the the buzzer sounded. That gave the Ducks a 38-24 lead.
“That three-pointer Sim threw up there at the end of the half,” Oregon Coach Dana Altman said, “to win a game like this sometimes you have to have a few breaks. And we did.”.
The key was defense. The Bruins shot just 35 percent for the game (18 of 51). They made only four of 13 three-point attempts.
The Ducks had nine steals and committed just nine turnovers.
“Bottom line is it’s starts with me,” UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. “Our team was not ready to play today. That was really obvious despite our performance.”
Bruin forward Tyler Honeycutt added that it “just started from warmups. Guys weren’t taking like game shots, weren’t really being focused. Really, they just outplayed us. They were more prepared than we were.”
The Bruins were even given a rare technical foul for having six players on the court after a timeout.
BIG ARENA, BIG JITTERS: If the first half of the first game Wednesday was any indication of the Pac-10 Tournament, there might be another concern for the Huskies Thursday night against Washington State in the last of the four games at Staples Center.
The biggest issue with the Huskies right now is confidence. They admit it’s at a low ebb. They finished 5-6 down the stretch, including 1-2 the final week at home. LAst week, they shot 22 percent and 21 percent in the first half against Washington State and UCLA, respectively week. Their three-point shooters, the team’s pride, are erratic.
It probably was a good thing that the Huskies flew to Los Angeles Wednesday and didn’t see Stanford’s first half against Oregon State, which turned into a 69-67 Beavers victory. The Cardinal made 4 of 34 shots (11.8 percent). They averaged 42.8 during the season. But 11.8 percent for a Division I team, a Pac-10 team?
Thursday afternoon in the Cal-USC game, the Trojans didn’t score until 14:26 of the first half. At one point, they were 3-of-15. The shooters finally adjusted, and finished the half making eight of 13 and led 35-27. They won going away, 70-56.
You wonder if the big arena on the big stage made for opening jitters. None of the teams were allowed to practice at the 17,000-seat, four-tiers-of-luxury-boxes Staples Center. It can intimidating for teenagers to experience an NBA arena. It’s the kind of environment that may not help a team like slow-starting team Washington, which has lost its swagger.
Sometimes it just happens in basketball,” said Stanford guard Jeremy Green. I think it’s a combination of us kind of missing shots and nerves as well. Everyone was amped up ready to play.”
UW coach Lorenzo Romar said it is most important to get off to an early start because he believes that will restore his shooters’ confidence.
C.J. Wilcox best represents the Huskies’ gyrating shooting trend. He hit 7-of-10 from the three against UCLA then slumped to 1-of-7 against USC. Terrence Ross, who had 18 points earlier this season against USC, didn’t even play against the Trojans. If the Huskies are going to win especially with their best defender Venoy Overton suspended for the tournament those two guys need to hit early and often.
They also are both freshmen. This is their first college tourney experience.
Two factors may help: They won the tournament here a year ago and have five players four starters – from that triumph, and they played in an NBA gym two weeks ago at Key Arena, against Seattle University.
It should be noted that Green and the Cardinal adjusted too late. Green tied the tournament record for three-pointers made with seven. His 15 attempts were the most in history. Stanford shot 59.3 percent (16 of 27) in the second half.
However, Stanford and OSU combined for the lowest percentage in the tournament history at 34.2.
And here’s a go-figure. In the second game Wednesday night, Arizona State had its best shooting percentage of the season, 53.6 percent, in a loss, as Oregon shot a season-high 57.9 percent (11 of 19) from three-point range.
OPENING A DOOR? Oregon came into the tournament on a four-game losing streak but could be the surprise tam if its 14-point halftime lead over No. 2 UCLA holds up.
The No. 7 seeded Ducks (15-16) held the Bruins (22-9) to just 25 percent shooting (6 of 24) to hold a 38-24 lead. E.J. Singler, who had a career-high 22 Wednesday against Arizona State, had 11 for the Ducks.
It should be noted that the winner meets the winner of the Washington-Washington State game. No matter what, if UCLA is eliminated that makes the path to the title game easier for everyone.
The Ducks lost twice to the Bruins this season but both were close, 67-59 at home and 64-54 at Pauley.
Can they do the Washingtonians a favor?
It’s going to take an extraordinary effort by our guys,” Oregon Coach Dana Altman said Wednesday. Our bench is going to have to get us a lot of minutes. We’ll also need to bring some energy and passion.”
Singler added, After coming off those four losses, we came in wanting to play really aggressive. I’m excited for tomorrow’s game. Can’t wait to play the Bruins again.”
PARROM MY ELBOW: Arizona, the league champion and No. 1 seed, had a bit of a test with Oregon State this afternoon. But after a flying elbow by OSU’s Joe Burton, the Beavers went down.
Burton, a 6-foot-7, 280-pounder, was ejected from the game halfway through the second half. He threw a flagrant right elbow that caught Kevin Parrom in the face. It also was caught by the referee and the camera. It was shown twice on the giant overhead video screen with Arizona’s fans chanting ”Throw him out.” the referees conferred and concurred.
That started a 8-0 run by the Wildcats to go up 68-51. They would win 78-69.
I was just being physical,” Parrom said. From what I remember, he just hit me. So I just fell and got back up and, you know, nothing.”
It was something because it just seemed to take the life out of the Beavers.
The Wildcats advance to play USC in what could be the best matchup of the tournament. The Cats split with the Trojans, winning at home on Jan. 29, 82-73, then losing more recently, Feb. 24, on the road, 65-57.
I look at them as one of the top 35 teams in the country,” Arizona Coach Sean Miller said of USC. I firmly expect them to be in the tournament. So with that being said, we’re playing a very quality team tomorrow, and we have to be at our best to beat them on a neutral court.”
PAC-10 NETWORK: Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the media at halftime of the California-USC game. He said the conference’s highest priority is increasing TV revenues, and that could be by starting its own TV network.
It’s something we’re looking at very seriously,” said Scott, who has been on the job for just over a year. It’s a high priority of mine.”
He said the conference has hired a marketing firm to pursue it. The conference will enhance its sales with fans from two more schools, Utah and Colorado.
Putting the economics aside, I really like it because we can get more exposure for Olympic sports and women’s sports, in which we excel, and I’m determined to show every football game and basketball game, and not having those games dark. Having our own network is a good way of accomplishing those things.”
Of the BCS conferences, the Pac-10 ranks fifth in TV revenue.
I want to broaden the exposure and raise the perception level of where the Pac-10 belongs in the pecking order,” Scott said.
- Justin Holiday, who suffered a concussion Saturday against USC, has been medically cleared to play. He missed practice Monday and Tuesday but passed the necessary tests today. He should be in the starting lineup.
- One major reason why Oregon State was able to hold off Stanford was that the Beavers’ bench outscored the Cardinal bench, 58-7.
- In the category of why the tournament needs to be moved from this huge building cavity is that they don’t treat it like a college game. While a USC player was at the free-throw line, a Cal band member ran back and forth behind the basket waving an over-sized cardboard head. A security team member aggressively snatched it away and put it behind his seat. The student protested until another Cal supporter came by and grabbed it back. The fan was ejected — to boos. The tourney needs to rotate to more college-oriented places.
- USC (19-13), in a serious hunt for a NCAA bid, took care of California easily in the first game Thursday, 70-56. The Trojans did it without a lot of production from 6-foot-10 center Nikola Vucevic, who had seven points. Donte Smith and Alex Stepheson had 14 points apiece, combining to hit 11 of 17. The Trojans had eight steals and forced 16 turnovers. They play the winner of No. 1 Arizona vs. Oregon State. The 56 points is a season low in conference play for Cal.
- “We played with a sense of desperation, and nothing is more desperate than to be 10 minutes into a game and have three points,” USC Kevin O’Neill said after the Trojan victory.”