Oregon Ducks

UCLA forward Ike Anigbogu, center, yells as he misses a dunk as Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey, left, and forward Jordan Bell defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Four Takeaways: Tenth-ranked UCLA knocks off No. 5 Oregon

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UCLA finally defended.

The 10th-ranked Bruins stymied No. 5 Oregon down the stretch to defeat the Ducks, 82-79, in a game in which they trailed by as many as 19 points.

Lonzo Ball was brilliant in the final minutes of the game, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds while defending Oregon’s Dillon Brooks on the other end.

The Ducks, who shot 48.7 percent in the first half, made just 33.3 percent of their shots in the second half and were just two of their last 13 as UCLA completed the comeback.

UCLA’s win is a bit of revenge after its undefeated start to the season came to an end in Eugene in late December on a Brooks game-winning 3.

Brooks and Tyler Dorsey both had 19 points for the Ducks, whose loss leaves Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings.

Here’s what you need to know from Westwood on Thursday night:

 

1. UCLA…defended?: Overall, Oregon scored 1.162 points per possession, which isn’t going to make it seem like the Bruins did a whole heck of a lot to slow the Ducks. But make no mistake, the Bruins absolutely buckled down and took Oregon absolutely out of what it wanted to accomplish down the stretch.

The Ducks made just two of their last 13 shots, had only 10 second-half field goals and had just 10 points in the last 8 minutes.

UCLA kept Oregon from getting into its offense early, which totally derailed the Ducks after a scintillating start to the game. Oregon just didn’t have an answer for UCLA was doing defensively.

What a world.

Now, the question for the Bruins is was it a fluke, matchup specific or something they can build on going forward? Their offense, as everyone knows, is as dynamic and electric as any in the country, and maybe one of the best in recent years. The defense, though, well, it’s been bad, bad, bad.

If this is an indication of moving toward average, that’s a game-changer. It doesn’t make them any more dangerous than they already are – their shooting makes them frightening to any opponent – but it does make them more formidable.

 

2. Lonzo Ball is that dude: The freshman was pretty pedestrian, at least by his standards, through the early going, putting up just four shots en route to five first-half points as UCLA fell behind by 19 points in the first half.

In the final 10 minutes of the game, though, Ball was beautiful. He made four of five shots – including a 30-footer with 32 seconds left – that help buoy the Bruins offense down the stretch and keeping Oregon at bay. He also had seven second-half rebounds. From the point guard position.

On the other end of the floor, Ball was instrumental in UCLA’s sudden defensive stoutness. He switched over to man-up on Dillon Brooks and kept the Ducks star in check late.

UCLA has a ton of weapons all over the floor, but Ball is what makes the whole thing go. When he fades into the background, the Bruins struggle to make it to their highest gear. When he’s at the center of the action, look out, defenses.

 

3. Oregon’s play was perplexing but not problematic: When the Ducks lost at Colorado last month, it raised some eyebrows. The Buffs aren’t exactly the most intimidating or accomplished group, yet somehow had Oregon, which was then riding a 17-game winning streak, down double-digits late. When Oregon found itself in a slog, albeit a win, against Arizona State, there was some questions about what was going on in Eugene.

Of course, the Ducks silenced any doubters by absolutely roasting Arizona, and this latest loss shouldn’t arouse any worries, either.

Sure, blowing a 19-point lead isn’t great, but a 19-point lead against UCLA isn’t like a 19-point lead against most teams given UCLA’s ability to fill it up.

The Ducks are – and will be – fine.

That’s not to say those last 10 minutes don’t raise some concerns.

UCLA absolutely defended its guts out and deserve praise, but Oregon looked totally perplexed and stymied. The Ducks are too good, too experienced and too versatile to not have an answer for that long.

4. Ducks interior D withers: On the other side of the floor is another, likely impermanent, concern for Oregon.

The Ducks are typically one of the stoutest interior defenses in the country, allowing opponents to shoot just 45 percent inside the arc while leading the country in block percentage.

In the second half, UCLA was able to do a ton of damage inside. The Bruins shot 56.5 percent on 2-pointers and had 20 of their 43 points in the paint. Meanwhile, Oregon had just one block for the whole game.

The Ducks have been too good for too long this season inside to think this is any sort of red flag going forward, but it does help explain how a 19-point lead went up in smoke.

Brooks scores 19 in return as No. 10 Oregon tops Utah

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks (24) goes to the basket as Utah's Jayce Johnson (34) and Kyle Kuzma (35) defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Whatever the immediate concerns were about Dillon Brooks’ foot, they appear to be moot.

Brooks looks to be just fine.

The Oregon junior scored 19 points, had two rebounds and three assists in No. 10 Oregon’s 73-67 win over Utah on Thursday after missing Saturday’s win over Stanford with a foot sprain.

The sprain, of course, wasn’t really the fear about Brooks’ foot. It was the surgery he had on that same foot that kept him off the court all summer and for the first three games of this season. Oregon is Final Four good with Brooks. Returning after just one game away suggests that the issue truly was minor.

It certainly didn’t look like the foot was problematic for him against the Utes, unless there’s something specific about the injury that impairs his ability to flop with any sense of dignity. Brooks looked as explosive and dynamic as ever, and Dana Altman had no problem starting and playing him for 36 minutes. Brooks was 7 of 15 from the floor and struggled shooting from distance with a 1 of 6 evening.

The Ducks continue to stomp their way through the schedule, having now won 17-straight games. Its setting up for an extremely entertaining Pac-12 race as Arizona also is undefeated in league play. And you can’t forget about UCLA, even if the Bruins have two league losses.

For Utah, the loss was another missed opportunity for a team that hasn’t been able to record high-level wins this season. They don’t have a victory over a current KenPom top-50 team, though other than an a befuddling loss to San Francisco, they haven’t lost to a team rated worse than 29th in KenPom.

The Utes have lost to Oregon and UCLA at home by a combined seven points, and they don’t have a home game remaining this season against a KenPom top-50 team. If they’re going to get a signature win or two this season, it’ll have to come away from Salt Lake City.

 

No. 11 Oregon blows by Cal, but Dillon Brooks leaves with “lower left leg injury”

Oregon Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24), collides in the first half against California in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Eugene, Ore. Brooks later left the game with an injury on a different play. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)
AP Photo/Thomas Boyd
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Oregon defeated Cal on Thursday. The score was 86-63. That hardly matters, though, considering what else occurred in Eugene.

Ducks star Dillon Brooks left the game with a “lower left leg injury,” which is particularly ominous considering it was a surgically repaired left foot that sidelined Brooks all summer and kept him from joining Oregon on the floor until mid-November.

As of Thursday evening, there was no specific clarification, leaving only questions not only about Brooks’ health but what Oregon will have to potentially do without him.

The Ducks can win without Brooks. They went 8-1 before Brooks ever logged 30 minutes in a game and blasted Washington State in Pullman when Brooks got ejected after just seven minutes. They didn’t need him to dismantle the Bears, shooting 58 percent from the floor for the game and 54.2 percent without him in the second half. Jordan Bell made 11 of 12 shots for a career-best 26 points, and three other Ducks scored in double figures.

It wouldn’t be ideal, but Oregon could tread water to a high seed with him missing a chunk of time as they’ve shown at different times throughout this season. The Ducks only have one matchup left with both UCLA and Arizona, coming back-to-back in the first week of February.

But if it’s a serious injury, it necessitates a recalibration of expectation for Oregon.

Brooks scored 23 and had the game-winner as the Ducks handled No. 3 UCLA its lone loss this season and had 28 points when they blew out then-No. 22 USC to end December. Brooks is too talented, too versatile and too important for a prolonged absence to be meaningfully weathered. The NCAA tournament just too often demands too much from teams to be without a player of Brooks’ caliber.

For Oregon to reach the heights that many predicted for it since last spring, Brooks has to be on the floor.

The wait for the diagnosis and prognosis, not just for Brooks but for Oregon’s season, is on.

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Villanova is the new No. 1

Villanova head coach Jay Wright shouts instructions to his team during the first half of N NCAA college basketball game against Miami in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
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1. Villanova (14-0, Last Week: No. 2): It feels like what Villanova is doing this season is still flying under the radar despite the fact that they are undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country while staking claim as the reigning national champions.

2. UCLA (14-1, 3): UCLA lost on the road on a game-winner with 0.7 seconds left to a team that I now have in the top ten, a team that was in the preseason top five before we realized that Dillon Brooks, who is now healthy and mowing down opponents, wasn’t at 100 percent to start the year. I’m not concerned in the least.

3. Kansas (12-1, 4): The Jayhawks survived a scrappy TCU team in their Big 12 opener thanks to a punishing performance from center Landen Lucas. He has suddenly turned into the most important player on the Kansas team now that Udoka Azubuike is out for the year with a wrist injury.

4. Kentucky (11-2, 5): Kentucky put together their most complete performance on the season last week when they beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Isaiah Briscoe put up a triple-double, Bam Adebayo played his best game of the season and Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox did the things that Monk and Fox do.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

5. Duke (12-2, 1): So what do we do with the Blue Devils? I’m still in the camp that says that Duke has the highest ceiling of any team in the country, and I also think we’ve underrated just how good Virginia Tech is this season; the Hokies would be undefeated right now if they hadn’t choked away a loss to Texas A&M in the Wooden Legacy semifinals. This isn’t like Duke going to Boston College and taking a beating.

But Duke still took a beating, and the biggest concern was that the Blue Devils seemed to lack the effort and the intensity to make the plays they needed to make defensively. They almost looked selfish offensively, as the lack of a point guard on that roster was glaring. They played without Grayson Allen, who was serving the first game of his suspension, but the issues Duke had on display were much bigger than Allen.

Put another way, Saturday made me think that Duke may not ever get to their ceiling. But hey, at least Harry Giles III finally scored a point.

(UPDATE: And now Coach K will miss up to a month to recover from back surgery.)

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Takeaways

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6. Gonzaga (14-0, 8): The Bulldogs were pushed by both Pacific and Pepperdine this week, but came out unscathed with double-digit wins. There is a real chance that Gonzaga could head into Moraga on Feb. 11th as the lone undefeated team in college basketball.

7. Baylor (14-0, 9): The Bears keep rolling along. On Saturday, they opened up Big 12 play by mollywhopping Oklahoma in Norman. It is going to be fun when the Bears get together with Kansas this season, on Feb. 1st and Feb. 18th.

8. Wisconsin (12-2, 11): While Indiana lost twice last week and Purdue dropped a home game to Minnesota, the Badgers continue to roll along. Since Nigel Hayes made the change to being a point forward, the Badgers have looked like a totally different team.

9. Louisville (12-2, 7): Outside of Duke, Louisville is the hardest team in this poll to rank. They beat Kentucky, but they beat Kentucky by three in a game they were favored by two on their home floor, the same home floor where they were smacked around by Virginia just five days ago. But then the Cardinals turned around and gave Indiana a similar whooping in Indiana. Wherever you have them ranked, here’s what you need to admit: the Cards are, right now, as good as, if not better than any team in the ACC.

10. Oregon (13-2, 21): Oregon vaults up to No. 10 in our poll for one, simple reason: they’re back.

11. West Virginia (12-1, 12)
12. North Carolina (12-3, 6)
13. Creighton (13-1, 10)
14. Florida State (14-1, 25)
15. Virginia (11-2, 18)
16. Xavier (12-2, 16)
17. Saint Mary’s (12-1, 17)
18. Arizona (14-2, 22)
19. Cincinnati (13-2, 20)
20. Butler (12-2, 13)
21. Purdue (12-3, 14)
22. Virginia Tech (12-1, UR)
23. Notre Dame (12-2, 23)
24. USC (14-1, 19)
25. Indiana (10-4, 15)

DROPPED OUT: No. 24 Seton Hall
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Virginia Tech

Dillon Brooks shines again as No. 21 Oregon hands No. 22 USC first loss

EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 28: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after hitting the game winning shot against the UCLA Bruins at Matthew Knight Arena on December 28, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Dillon Brooks picked a hell of a week to prove to the nation that he’s healthy again.

Just 48 hours after the preseason all-american led No. 21 Oregon ended No. 2 UCLA’s undefeated run by posting 23 points, nine boards and four assists, he dropped 28 points on 9-for-10 shooting as the Ducks handed No. 22 USC their first loss of the season, 84-61.

Brooks missed the first three games of the regular season coming off of a foot injury he suffered over the summer. He only returned to the starting lineup four games ago; he’s averaging 20 points in those four games.

The two wins that the Ducks posted this weekend thrust them right back into the thick of the Pac-12 regular season title race, which didn’t look like it would necessarily be something that came to fruition this season. With Brooks struggling to find the form that made him one of college basketball’s best players last season Oregon looked like a shell of themselves. They were blown out at Baylor. They lost to Georgetown in the Maui Invitational. They struggled to beat the likes of Tennessee, UConn, Alabama and Boise State. They just didn’t look like the same team.

Until this week.

I wrote 1,200 words on the Ducks on Wednesday when they knocked off UCLA, and there isn’t much about Friday night’s win over USC that is all that different. But it is worth noting two things:

  • Dylan Ennis played his best game as a Duck, scoring 20 points, including 12 in the first six minutes of the second half as Oregon blew this game open. With Tyler Dorsey sputtering, it’s important for Oregon to have a back court scoring option.
  • The Ducks shot 8-for-20 from three two nights after hitting 11 threes against UCLA. The Ducks entered the week shooting 31.0 percent from beyond the arc. This team isn’t Creighton or UCLA, but they aren’t as bad as they’ve been from beyond the arc. Some regression to the mean was likely.

No. 22 Oregon downs UNLV 83-63 in Portland

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 17: Tyler Dorsey #5 of the Oregon Ducks drives to the basket during the second half of the game against the UNLV Rebels at the Moda Center on December 17, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. The Ducks won the game 83-63. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 20 points, including 16 in the second half, and the No. 22 Oregon Ducks extended their winning streak to eight games with an 83-63 victory over UNLV on Saturday night at Portland’s Moda Center.

Tyler Dorsey added 18 points while Jordan Bell had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Oregon (10-2), which led by 23 points in the second half. The Ducks have held 11 straight opponents under 70 points.

Jovan Mooring led the Rebels (6-5) with 20 points. Tyrell Green added 18 points and eight rebounds.

Oregon was without leading scorer Chris Boucher, who was on crutches and wearing a boot on his right foot on the Ducks’ bench.

It was unclear when Boucher was injured. He played in Oregon’s 81-67 victory at home over Montana on Tuesday night, scoring 23 points with 19 rebounds. He was a rebound short of becoming the Ducks’ first player since 1977 with 20 or more points and rebounds.

Boucher, a 6-foot-10 senior, is averaging 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game for Oregon this season. He ranks 10th nationally in blocks.

Boucher’s absence made way for Brooks’ first start of the season. Brooks has played off the bench since returning from offseason foot surgery.

Brooks was key to Oregon’s success last season, when the team won a school-record 31 games while claiming the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. The Ducks earned a first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to Elite Eight for the first time since 2007.

The Ducks led by as many as 11 points in the first half. The Rebels closed within 34-29 late after Tyrell Green’s layup, but Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey answered with a 3-pointer.

Green hit a 3-pointer for UNLV to narrow it to 37-33 at the break. Green led all scorers with 15 points in the half.

Oregon went on a 10-run to open the first half, capped by Payton Pritchard’s 3-pointer, as the game started to get away from UNLV. The Ducks stretched the lead to 55-36 on Dorsey’s layup.

BIG PICTURE

UNLV: The Rebels are in the midst of a tough stretch where they’ll face three ranked teams. They lost at No. 5 Duke 94-45 last Saturday and they’ll host No. 3 Kansas on Thursday. … The Rebels are playing their first season under coach Marvin Menzies, hired after Chris Beard left the job after only a week in March to become head coach at Texas Tech.

Oregon: With Oregon’s women ranked No. 25 this past week, it is the first time both the Ducks’ men and women are ranked since January 1995. The women’s team played in the early game Saturday night, defeating Portland State 90-46. … Oregon has been ranked in the Top 25 for 14 straight weeks dating to last season.

LOCAL KID: Payton Pritchard drew cheers from the Portland crowd when he hit the Ducks’ first basket of the night, a 3-pointer. The 6-foot-2 freshman point guard played for West Linn High School just south of Portland. He’s played at the Moda Center before, when West Linn defeated Sheldon in the 2014 Class 6A state championship game.

UP NEXT

UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels return home to face Southern Illinois on Monday.

Oregon: The Ducks host Fresno State on Tuesday, the team’s final nonconference game before Pac-12 play starts.