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Magical rejuvenation — Bruins overcome a 17-point deficit with 7 minutes to go to force Overtime and beat Oregon IN Eugene, 87-84

On Thursday night, for the second time in 3 years, the Bruins staged a miraculous comeback to beat the Ducks. In 2017, they extinguished a 19-point first-half deficit in Pauley Pavilion to shock Oregon on Dick Enberg Appreciation Day. And today, they outdid that, erasing a 17-point Duck lead in the final 7 minutes of regulation, including a 9-point margin in the final 48 seconds, then finally a 4-point deficit in O.T., to pull off an 87-84 stunner in the infamously unfriendly confines of the Ducks’ Matt Court.

For most of the game, UCLA was getting schooled, by a team that was missing two of its star players due to injury. After a hot start by UCLA, Oregon overtook and steadily pulled away to a double-digit lead near the end of the first half, primarily by capitalizing on FOURTEEN Bruin Turnovers. A buzzer-beating heave by Kris Wilkes cut the margin to 7 at the Half. It was a bit of redemption for Wilkes, who was the main culprit of the Turnover barrage.

That momentum that the shot could have given UCLA did not carry over in the Second Half, as the turnovers, and missed Threes, and missed Free Throws continued, allowing the Ducks to increase the lead to 17 with 7 minutes left. And that’s when the sleeping giant awoke. Several Bruins suddenly starting hitting shots, especially Prince Ali, who led the Bruins with 22. The Bruins were still down by 9 with 48 seconds left when Jules Bernard hit a huge 3. And they were still down by 4 with 3 seconds left, when Ali grabbed an Offensive Rebound and chucked up an unbalanced desperation three that went right through.

That shot still left the Bruins down by 1. They fouled immediately, and the 2 ensuing made Free Throws made it 80-77 Oregon. So when the Bruins inbounded, the Ducks fouled immediately, to prevent the Bruins from launching a potentially game-tying three-pointer. That sent Jaylen Hands to the Charity Stripe, where he cooly sank the first one. Then UCLA’s Interim Head Coach Murry Bartow inserted taller players into the line-up and instructed Hands to intentionally miss the second shot. Hands perfectly hit the front of the rim, and Bruin Center Moses Brown got his hands on the rebound. The ball deflected right to Bruin Chris Smith, who made the game-tying lay-up with 0.7 seconds left, AND he was fouled on the play.

So Smith had a chance to essentially ice the game in regulation, but he bricked the Free Throw, sending the game into Overtime. Oregon went up 84-80, but once again, the Bruins refused to quit. Ali scored 4 straight to tie it, and then a Hands jumper gave UCLA the lead. A Brown Free Throw expanded the lead to 3, with 18 seconds left.

Inexplicably, UCLA did NOT foul to prevent a 3 like Oregon did. Instead, they allowed the Ducks to get off a decent trey, but it clanked off the rim to seal the Bruin victory, a triumph that a few minutes earlier seemed unimaginable. I’m sure lots of Bruin fans had turned off their TV’s with 7 minutes to go, and missed one of the most thrilling games in recent memory, especially on the Road.

The win makes the Bruins 3-0 post-Alford. That’s 3-0 in Conference play. u$c would have been tied for the lead, had they not lost in Corvallis to the Beavers right after the Bruin W. That leaves UCLA at the top of the Pac-12 standings, tied only with 3-0 Arizona. With the Conference having a down year, anything can happen, including a Bruin Championship.

One thing the Bruins have lacked this year in their quest for a Championship-caliber campaign is a TEAM LEADER. And there was a moment tonight that may have demonstrated that UCLA actually DOES have one: With 2:04 left in Overtime and the Bruins down 84-82, Moses Brown threw the ball out of bounds for a crucial Turnover. Brown was demonstrably upset. He jumped up and down in frustration, then he frowned, shook his head, and rolled his eyes. Then finally, he hung his head in shame. That’s when Hands came over to him, put his hand on Brown’s neck, and physically lifted up Brown’s chin, in a fantastic “hold your head up” moment that even Rod Argent would have been proud of (look it up).

Brown went on to play some intimidating Defense in the key to curtail a few Duck drives, then got the Key Defensive Rebound, and finally made a Free Throw to give the Bruins their ultimate 3-point lead. So Hands’ developing leadership may just be the missing ingredient to help this team play up to its potential, and that could mean a Pac-12 Title.

Speaking of Championships, here are 24 more shots of the Conference’s (and the Nation’s) best Spirit Squad…

"BRU’D AWAKENING LEADS TO EUG COMEBACK VICTORY" was published on January 11th, 2019 and is listed in Blue & Gold News.


  1. JC wrote,

    It’s usually best when the point guard is the leader of the team, as they should be the most unselfish player.

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