Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Lonzo Ball Leads No. 10 UCLA to 19-Point Comeback Victory Over No. 5 Oregon
By MIKE McCURRY
Oregon appeared well on its way to a regular-season sweep of UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday, and this time the Ducks wouldn’t have to be bailed out by a Dillon Brooks buzzer-beater, or so it seemed.
Lonzo Ball had other plans.
Ball, the freshman sensation who is very much in contention to be the first overall pick in this June’s NBA Draft, willed No. 10 UCLA to victory, as the Bruins overcame a 19-point deficit to come away with an 82-79 win over No. 5 Oregon.
Ball finished with 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. Furthermore, his second half defense on Brooks wound up being one of the biggest deciding factors in the game.
The 6-foot-6 point guard almost singlehandedly outscored Oregon over the final 10 minutes, 28 seconds of action, dropping 10 of his 15 during that stretch while the Ducks mustered just 12.
Included in that improbable run (even though it’s contained in the clip above, it definitely merits a second look) is arguably the heat check of the year so far in college basketball, courtesy of who else?
Here’s the crazy part about Thursday’s Top-10 clash: UCLA—the same team that has already been dismissed by some prognosticators as a legitimate national title contender for generally not being able to cover a corpse—actually won in part because of its defense.
Early on, Oregon’s ease in scoring resembled a pregame shootaround. The Ducks led by as many as 19 in the first half, finishing the opening frame with 1.3 points per possession and 20 points in the paint.
Somewhere along the way in the second half, the Bruins got serious about guarding. It probably began when head coach Steve Alford elected to switch Ball onto Brooks, which not only ignited UCLA’s entire defensive unit but also converted the Ducks into a confused, fearful, and settling offensive product.
In the second half, Oregon scored exactly one point per possession and mustered just 6 paint points. 60 percent of the Ducks’ attempted field goals came from beyond the arc, compared to just 38 percent in the initial 20 minutes.
As a result, three primary things happened: (1) Oregon squandered a gigantic cushion in a choke job that even the Atlanta Falcons would be somewhat ashamed of; (2) Arizona finds itself in the drivers’ seat to win the Pac-12 regular season title despite being idle on Thursday….and (3): the best offensive squad in America may have developed confidence on the other side of the floor.
“When we guard, we can do anything,” Ball told ESPN’s Molly McGrath afterward.
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