Photo by Allan Johnstone
Oregon Basketball

Preview: UCLA

January 10, 2019

It’s only one game into conference play for the Ducks, but already it’s clear that Oregon hasn’t been able to catch a break.

To recap, in the days leading up to the league opener, star center Bol Bol decided to leave the program after suffering a season-ending injury. Then sophomore forward Abu Kigab announced he was transferring. Finally, Kenny Wooten wouldn’t be able to play after breaking his jaw in December.

The result was the Ducks losing to Oregon State at home for the first time since 2012, 77-72. 

The Ducks are looking to rebound against their next opponent, the UCLA Bruins, when they face off Thursday in Eugene at 6 p.m. 

The Bruins' season started off similarly to the Ducks, with big expectations but a bumpy start. That led to the Bruins to fire head coach Steve Alford.

It seems to have been the right move, as the Bruins' season has started to turn around. They are tied for first in the Pac-12 with USC after beating Stanford and Cal. 

The Ducks are definitely going to have their hands full, as post-Alford the Bruins have improved in shooting, field goal percentage and rebounding. The team seems to have a whole new energy. 

Before I get into what I think is likely to happen Thursday, I think it is important to mention that the Bruins under Alford have been a historically bad road team, losing a lot more than they have won. It’s been the little x-factor that has given the Ducks an edge in the past when the Bruins have traveled to Eugene. But now that Alford’s out, that trend might not hold.

“(Cincinnati) was two-and-a-half weeks ago, so I do think right now we’re playing like a different team a little bit than we were then,” interim coach Murry Bartow said Tuesday. “We just didn’t play real well. So this is a whole kind of new day, new week.”

This UCLA team is athletic, fast and long -- a deadly trio that could allow them to cruise to the Pac-12 title. They use that speed to push the pace of the game and score quickly, resulting in them putting up 90-plus points in their last two games. 

But UCLA has a problem with turning the ball over; in it's last game they turned the ball over 22 times. That is where Oregon’s opportunity lies. Oregon has been pretty good this season in forcing turnovers, so hopefully they can expose this flaw in UCLA’s game. I think that if Oregon is able to apply the full court defense that they have been playing recently, it’ll create a lot of opportunities for turnovers. 

The other advantage that the Ducks have is their home crowd. Matthew Knight Arena is a tough place for opponents to come into and perform well. Like I mentioned above, it might just be the Alford factor, but the Bruins haven’t won in Eugene since 2014. 

This is going to be a tough game for the Ducks to win; I’m not going to sugar-coat it. UCLA has good players. They are confident right now, and they are on a winning streak. Turnovers are going to determine this game. If Oregon can create turnovers, it can win this game. If not, the Bruins’ athleticism and speed will prevail.

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