LOS ANGELES — Ben Howland knew exactly what he was getting into when his No. 24 Bruins hosted No. 21 Oregon on Saturday afternoon.
Oregon unveiled all of the strengths Howland knew UCLA needed to look out Saturday, as the Bruins fell 76-67 in a battle of conference unbeatens in front of 12,254 at new Pauley Pavilion and a national TV audience. The loss snapped the Bruins’ 10-game winning streak and handed them their first Pac-12 loss.
UCLA (15-4, 5-1 Pac-12) started the game with leading scorer Shabazz Muhammad on the bench. Muhammad’s car was towed and as a result of dealing with that, he overslept after going back to his dorm for a nap and was late to practice on Friday, according to Howland.
Muhammad, who was not made available for comment following the game, got on the floor for the first time during the first media timeout, which came with 14:58 left in the first half and UCLA up 12-11.
Meanwhile, what Howland was expecting from the Ducks (16-2, 5-0 Pac-12) was just beginning to take form.
He said the Ducks’ offense would be hard to guard, with their different actions and multiple options on a team that features five scorers that average double figures. Despite holding them to just 37 percent shooting in the first half, the Bruins’ defense couldn’t duplicate that performance in the second half.
The Ducks took half as many shots as they did in the first half and nearly made as many, knocking down shots at a 60-percent clip. Four Oregon players reached double figures, led by Tony Woods’ 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
Also in that mix was one-time UCLA commit Dominic Artis, who had 14 points and six assists. Two more Ducks scored nine points.
Howland said Oregon was a good defensive team and he saw that in the second half, as well. The Ducks held UCLA to 37 percent shooting in the second half after allowing the Bruins to make 55 percent of their shots in the first half. Oregon mixed up looks defensively and showed a full court press that forced UCLA to make careless turnovers.
“We prepared for it,” Travis Wear said of the Ducks’ full-court pressure. “When a team like Oregon’s been running it and they’re comfortable with it, it’s tough to break and it gave us some issues.”
Above all, Howland emphasized how good the Ducks were on the boards, and UCLA was never in that particular battle.
“It’s my fault,” Howland said. “We, obviously, haven’t done a good enough job of teaching blockouts.”
Said Oregon head coach Dana Altman of the rebounding: “That was the difference. [We] showed a lot of toughness and determination.”
The Ducks jumped out of the gate with a 7-2 edge on the boards. On one possession, the Bruins had to defend for nearly a minute early in the first half. They couldn’t secure a defensive rebound, allowing the Ducks to get four offensive rebounds on the same trip down the floor.
Oregon didn’t score on that particular possession thanks to a Kyle Anderson steal, but it was a sign of things to come and provided a microcosm of the Bruins’ season.
“We talked about what our Achilles heel has been for us, and what concerns me most and No. 1 is rebounding,” Howland said. “It’s something that we’re going to have to really work at here in the coming week of practice to try to get it solved, because it’s going to be a problem for us moving forward until we get it figured out.”
Oregon outrebounded UCLA 40-31 and took advantage of its 13 offensive rebounds by scoring 12 second chance points. The last of those points came on a tip-in by Ducks forward Arsalan Kazemi with 2:58 to play as part of an 8-0 run that allowed them to separate themselves down the stretch.
Muhammad scored 10 points in the first half, but missed all four of his second-half shots and was held scoreless. The Bruins were led by Wear’s 17 points.
It’s UCLA’s first home loss since their disappointing 70-68 loss to Cal Poly on Nov. 25, snapping a string of eight consecutive wins at the new Pauley Pavilion.
They now have to regroup for what Howland called the “most difficult road trip” in the Pac-12 this season when they visit the Arizona schools next week.
“After having that win streak going, playing so well and then come out and lose a tough conference game to a ranked team, we really wanted this one and it hurts,” Wear said. “I think we’re just going to be more motivated to get back [to] practice because we hate this feeling.”