LOS ANGELES — The Bruins found out just how reliant they really are on Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams during Thursday’s double-overtime loss to Oregon and their returns from their one-game suspensions Sunday only underscored their importance.
After falling behind in a sloppy first half, it was Adams and Anderson that led the Bruins out of the funk and to a 74-69 over Oregon State Sunday night in the final game of the season at Pauley Pavilion. Adams scored 24 points with five rebounds and three assists and Anderson 14 points with nine rebounds and five assists.
In order to win, UCLA needs those two assets.
"We would like to apologize to our fans, our family, our coaching staff and our teammates for not playing that last game due to our issues," said Adams, on behalf of himself and Anderson, following their postgame remarks. "We want to thank our teammates and all of our fans for the support during that Oregon game."
The two were suspended only hours before Thursday’s game at Pauley Pavilion. And while their presence in the lineup Sunday was immediately felt, the team still opened up with a poor defensive showing in the first half.
The Beavers took a lead by nine points at the half and by as much as 11 early in the second. The size advantage of Oregon State, who already beat UCLA in Corvallis this season, was obvious as their length bothered the Bruins. The Beavers took full advantage in the paint, outscoring UCLA 32-24, and on the boards where they pulled down five more than the Bruins.
"When you get to this part of the year, matchups are a huge key. We’re not blessed with a abundance of big size up front," Alford said. "We’re not at that point yet."
Behind the hot-shooting Roberto Nelson, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, the Beavers (15-13, 7-9) shot 56 percent from the field in the first while the Bruins were held to 37.9 percent.
"I was not happy with who we were in the first half," said head coach Steve Alford. "I didn’t like our effort at all in the first half but then I thought our effort in the second half is much like who we are."
It was Adams that sparked a 15-2 run in the second half, bringing the Bruins back from a four-point deficit to a four-point lead. They played a much more characteristic transition game and held the Beavers off for a win that ended their skid at just two games.
"That was a big, gritty win," Alford said. "It’s a hard sport to get back to winning again."
The win secured UCLA (22-7, 11-5) a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Championship Tournament. It was also the final win at Pauley for seniors David and Travis Wear as well as walk-on Aubrey Williams. It could also potentially have been the final performance at home for Anderson, although he said he wasn’t thinking about that before the game.
The Bruins are positioned well at the right time of the year, but they still have two hot Arizona teams to contend with on the road and UCLA has yet to record a road sweep. Regardless of the opponent, it’s now become critical to have their two guards active and in the lineup should they want to continue playing good basketball through the rest of the month.
"The month of March is a player’s month," Alford said. "It can either go by really quickly or we can extend it by playing really good basketball."