EUGENE, Ore. —
Its big men in foul trouble, its offense in a funk, its most exciting freshman playing on a bothersome ankle, UCLA turned to an old friend in its time of need.
Hey, Jaime Jaquez Jr., how about some help?
The senior forward was happy to oblige Saturday night, showing once again why he’s the Bruins’ most indispensable player. He buried jumpers off inbounds passes. Threw a nifty bounce pass to Adem Bona for a dunk. Then, just as Oregon sensed it desperately needed to make a move, Jaquez made back-to-back three-pointers.
It was everything seventh-ranked UCLA needed to power its way to a 70-63 victory over the Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena in what might have been its biggest gut check of the season.
Jaquez scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half, including the knockout blow on a two-handed breakaway dunk after he came up with a steal, to help the Bruins (21-4, 12-2 Pac-12) extend their advantage over Arizona to 1½ games in the conference standings.
UCLA’s first win on Oregon’s home court since January 2019 came after the Bruins opened the second half with a 17-4 surge involving some smarts and toughness. David Singleton twice tied up Oregon players, leading to one turnover on the alternating possession, and Jaquez twice buried jumpers after taking inbounds passes from Tyger Campbell. Jaquez followed with a fadeaway jumper that staked his team to an eight-point advantage, its biggest of the game.
Oregon fans were left to generate their own fun during a timeout “Animal House” video shown on the scoreboard featuring Ducks players in togas. But even that was short-lived, Jaquez stretching his team’s lead to 53-41 on back-to-back three-pointers.
Predictably, the Ducks made a late run, stirring hopes of another wild ending on a court that has featured plenty when these teams meet here.
Oregon pulled to within 55-46 before Jaylen Clark countered with eight points in a row for the Bruins and Jaquez followed with his steal and dunk with five minutes left, sending fans streaming toward the exit.
Clark finished with 13 points as the only other Bruin in double figures. It was enough given Jaquez’s big night, which also included 12 rebounds.
Jermaine Couisnard scored 19 points to lead the Ducks (15-11, 9-6), who could not capitalize on the foul trouble that haunted UCLA’s front line from the game’s opening minute. Bona and Kenneth Nwuba both fouled out, but it didn’t matter.
UCLA’s lead in the Pac-12 standings grew before tipoff when Stanford upset Arizona, a huge surprise as well as a reminder of how hard it is to win on the road. The Wildcats’ loss assured the Bruins of keeping their hold on first place in the conference no matter what happened against the Ducks.
But things quickly deteriorated in just about the worst start imaginable for UCLA. Bona picked up a foul 41 seconds into the game, prompting Bruins coach Mick Cronin to bench him in favor of Nwuba. Oregon immediately attacked the backup center, N’Faly Dante making a jump hook and a dunk to help his team roll off the game’s first eight points.
Cronin called a timeout, only for his team to immediately commit a shot-clock violation. The Bruins finally got on the board when Clark banked in a tough floater. The game was more than 3½ minutes old.
UCLA eventually surged into a narrow lead before foul trouble among its bigs became a theme. Bona returned only to pick up his second foul on a needless reach-in on the perimeter, and Nwuba quickly tallied three fouls. That necessitated a brief reintroduction to third-stringer Mac Etienne before Cronin went against his tendency by bringing Bona back into the game before halftime with two fouls.
UCLA trailed 33-30 at halftime with its offense in a funk and Amari Bailey injured after the freshman guard hurt his ankle while landing on an Oregon player’s foot, forcing him to limp off the court. It was a humongous loss given that Bailey had been the Bruins’ most efficient player to that point, leading the team with eight points while making four of six shots.
In a huge sign of relief for UCLA, Bailey returned to start the second half.
Meanwhile, Oregon has been doing its usual all-over-the-place thing under coach Dana Altman this season. After losing at home to UC Irvine and Utah Valley — not to mention going .500 through their first six Pac-12 games — the Ducks had been on a roll, winning six of their last eight games before Saturday.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi said in his latest NCAA tournament bracket projection that Oregon would be in the field with a victory over UCLA.
They will need to look elsewhere after Saturday.