Hey Guys and Dolls — We got the horses right here and their names are Lonzo, Aaron, and Ike, who lead UCLA to an unbelievable comeback from NINETEEN points down against #5 Oregon for an exhilirating 82-79 victory
Sit down, sit down, sit down you’re rockin’ the Pauley!
Sold out Pauley Pavilion reached unprecedented decibel levels on Thursday night, as the #10 UCLA Bruins roared back from a 19-point deficit to beat the #5 Oregon Ducks 82-79. Before I tell you about this truly unforgettable night, I must give my most profound thanks to the person whose overwhelming generosity and kindness of spirit ALLOWED me to be in attendance in the first place. I don’t want to embarrass anyone or her relatives, so I won’t say her name, but she knows who she is, and I am sincerely grateful and appreciative. It was possibly the greatest game I’ve ever witnessed in person, and I have been going to games since Hector was a pup, and that includes seeing the Bruins win in a Final Four. I also thoroughly enjoyed a special pre-game “tailgate” session in Luskin Center. Again, I cannot say thanks enough to express my deepest gratitude.
It was a special night for longtime Bruin fans regardless of the outcome, because it was Dick Enberg Night. UCLA was honoring the Multiple Hall of Fame Broadcaster, who was the Bruins’ play-by-play man for most of their Wooden Championships, and who I personally grew up listening to as the voice of the Bruins (and Angels). I was not a Dodger fan, so to ME, it was Dick and Chick (Hearn) as the two sportscasters that brought sports to life for me. At Halftime of this game, Dick “Oh my!” Enberg was honored with a framed Bruin Jersey, presented by Bruins Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes. As if that presentation wasn’t worth the price of admission all by itself, the current Bruins teams had a little something to add.
The game started out pretty ugly for UCLA, with Oregon immediately jumping out to a 5-0 lead, building the margin up to 10 before all the fans had even found their seats. Two early fouls on T.J. Leaf put him on the bench, where he watched the Ducks catch fire, hitting 3’s with ease, doubling up the Bruins 30-15. The Oregon Defense found a way to neutralize Lonzo Ball, who leads the free world in Assists, but had none at all during this Duck Domination. The Ducks went up by 19 with about 6 and a half minutes to go in the first half.
A lesser team would have quit, but not this year’s Bruins. Senior Guard Bryce Alford took over the game, leading the Bruins on a 14-0 run to cut the lead to 5, and at the half, the lead was 9, at 48-39. At that point, Bryce was UCLA’s leading scorer, with 12. And if you would have told me then that the Ducks would hold Bryce to a Goose Egg in the second half, I would have said no way do the Bruins survive. But — with Bryce going completely scoreless after Intermission, and with the Bruins’ leading scorer Leaf having an off game by his or any standard, it was up to Ball, Aaron Holiday, Ike Anigbogu, Thomas Welsh, and Isaac Hamilton to create some Magic. Speaking of Magic, Magic Johnson was sitting in the front row. Maybe his presence inspired the Bruins to refuse to die (which is exactly what Magic did, for real).
In the second half, the Ducks built the lead back up to 15, and they kept it at 15 down to around the 13-minute mark. Things were certainly looking bleak for the Home Team. That’s when Welsh made 2 straight shots (on his way to a 6-7 night and 12 Points), then Hamilton added 2 Free Throws and Anigbogu got 2 tip-ins. With Anigbogu becoming a force inside on Defense as well, altering shots and frustrating the Ducks, the Bruins continued their comeback. At this point, Lonzo took over, with a drive for 2, then a long-distance 3, which cut the lead to only 5, with 8 and a half minutes to go. Another Welsh jump shot whittled it to 3. A duck Free Throw made it 4, and that’s when Holiday took charge.
Aaron pulled off a spectacular reverse lay-up AND ONE, to make it 70-69 Ducks with 5:22 left, then followed that up with a three-pointer to give the Bruins THEIR FIRST LEAD OF THE ENTIRE GAME(!) with 4 minutes left. Then Anigbogu got a tip-in, and also made 1 of 2 Free Throws to keep the Bruins in front. That’s when Lonzo re-took charge. Once again he drove to the hoop for a difficult, tightly-guarded, sweeping lay-in, and he followed that up with a TWENTY-NINE FOOT three-point (shoulda-been) dagger, which put the Bruins up by 5 with 33 seconds left. But Dana Altman’s Duck don’t give up either. Oregon cut the lead to 1 and with 15 seconds left, fouled Holiday, who had just missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But with all the chips down, Holiday sank BOTH, to push the lead to 3. Oregon, with no time outs, came down the court, looking for a tie. Interestingly, UCLA did NOT foul to keep the Ducks from attempting a game-tying three. Nonetheless, Oregon’s offense was panicked and chaotic, and they had to force up a bad 3-point shot, with Leaf’s long arm right in the shooter’s face. The shot missed badly, and the clock ran out before they could get another shot off, and with that, the Bruins had completed one of the greatest comebacks in school history, with only the March Madness Gonzaga Adam Crybaby Morrison game coming to mind to rival this one.
The most surprising stat: Lonzo had only 1 Assist for the whole game… yet he was still the HERO. He and Holiday led the team with 15 Points a piece, and Ball completed a Double-Double with 11 Rebounds. Hamilton scored 11, and Ike had 9, with 9 Boards. Another shocking stat was that the Ducks, who lead the Nation in Blocked Shots, only had ONE Rejection, while the Bruins swatted away FIVE Duck shots. Yet another curious stat: The Bruins got only ONE Steal all game long. Lonzo usually does that and more, all by himself, by Halftime. The Ducks, for comparison, stole the ball away from the Bruins SEVEN times. This game did not go like you would expect on paper. It was a game of runs, and UCLA — by sheer force of will, and sheer force of Ball, had the last run — the one that counts. The Bruins closed the game on a 16-9 run, which included holding the Ducks scoreless for about 5 minutes.
After the game, Ball was asked if beating the #5 team in the Nation means they can beat anyone. And he said, wisely, that yes they can beat anyone, WHEN THEY DEFEND. When the Bruins ramped up their Defense, they blew the Ducks out of the sky. Next up is the Beaver game on Sunday, and then, another Revenge Game, against sc on the 18th. Let’s hope they DEFEND in that game from the start, because it won’t be easy to erase ANOTHER 19-point deficit. Anyway, let’s not dwell on that upcoming challenge. Right now let’s just enjoy one of the best comebacks in Pauley Pavilion history.
Note: There were a couple of scary incidents involving the Cheer Squad, which ESPN caught on camera. I’m not going to discuss them here, out of respect for those involved. I will say that I have communicated with both people who could have been injured, and it appears that they are okay. Thank goodness. Hopefully the whole Spirit Squad will be out in full force on Sunday. Speaking of the Spirt Squad, here are 54 photos from the game, including Game and Cheer pics.