GAME NOTES: In a rematch of last year's league title game, the seventh-seeded Oregon Ducks tangle with the second-seeded UCLA Bruins in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament on Thursday evening.
UCLA was fortunate to claim the second seed in this tournament, having gone 2-3 over the final five games. Luckily, the logjam for third place, which featured five teams tied at 10-8 in league play, made the Bruins' 12-6 conference record good enough. UCLA finished 23-8 overall as well, earning with several spells in the national rankings along the way. A year ago, the Bruins were the top seed and made it all the way to the championship round before being toppled by Oregon, 78-69. Their last conference tournament title came in 2008, coming en route to their second straight run to the Final Four.
Oregon's defense of its tourney title got off to a strong start, as it rolled over 10th-seed Oregon State in the first round, 88-74. The Ducks have now won eight straight games, which includes an 87-83 overtime triumph versus UCLA.
That win for the Ducks was revenge for a 70-68 triumph the Bruins posted earlier in the season. The all-time series has been less competitive, with UCLA holding an 84-31 advantage.
In their win over Oregon State, the Ducks were extremely efficient shooting the basketball as the drained 57.7 percent from the field, including 10-of-16 from 3-point range. They also outscored the Beavers 21-7 off of turnovers. Joseph Young paced the effort with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Oregon is the highest scoring team in the Pac-12 (82.5 ppg) and the ninth- highest in the country, despite ranking fifth in the league in field goal percentage (.469). Transfers Young (18.3 ppg) and Mike Moser (13.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg) have each enjoyed stellar campaigns for the Ducks, especially Young, who was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team earlier this week.
UCLA's loss in the regular-season finale was perhaps its most troubling of the season. The Bruins faced Washington State, a team with only two conference wins entering the contest, and fell in a 73-55 decision. The Bruins only sank 33.3 percent from the floor and were outscored 30-15 from 3-point range.
It was quite a step back for the normally potent Bruins. UCLA ranks 11th in the country in scoring (82 ppg), while placing among the top-20 in assists (17.3 apg) and field goal percentage (.486) as well. Kyle Anderson (14.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 6.6 apg) leads the way as one of only four players nationally that is averaging at least 14 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. Jordan Adams (17.5 ppg) is the team's leading scoring, and Zach LaVine (10.5 ppg) and Norman Powell (10.9 ppg) add additional firepower.
For the second straight season, Oregon has gotten hot at just the right time. However, its win over UCLA earlier in the campaign has an asterisk next to it considering Anderson and Adams were both sidelined due to suspension. Still, this should be a tight game not decided until the final minutes.
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