LOS ANGELES (AP) No. 21 Oregon and No. 24 UCLA came into Saturday’s game chasing first place in the Pac-12. The Ducks played better defense in the second half and came away with the top spot.
Tony Woods scored 18 points while missing just one shot, Dominic Artis added 14 points, and Arsaian Kazemi had 12 points and 11 rebounds in Oregon’s 76-67 victory that improved the Ducks to 5-0 in league play for the first time in 39 years.
“We knew we had to get better defensively,” Kazemi said. “Our game plan was to attack them off the dribble and just in general be more aggressive on the defensive end.”
The Ducks (16-2, 5-0 Pac-12) shot 60 percent in the second half and controlled the boards 40-31, including a 13-7 edge on the offensive glass. They pulled away with a 15-6 run that gave them the lead for good.
Travis Wear scored 17 points to lead the Bruins, whose 10-game winning streak – including eight straight at home – equaled their longest since 2008-09. Norman Powell added 11 points starting in place of Shabazz Muhammad, who finished with 10 points, as did Kyle Anderson.
“We just can’t get too big-headed about our win streak and think this team is just going to lay over and give us the win,” Powell said. “We just needed to come out harder in the second half.”
That’s when UCLA shot 38 percent while contending with a mix of full-court and zone defense.
“They did a great job changing up looks and keeping us uncomfortable,” Wear said. “They’re a really, really good rebounding team. We got to box out and go seek the ball rather than just boxing out and hoping someone else is going to grab it. Go get it.”
The Bruins (15-4, 5-1) led by three points at halftime after shooting 55 percent in getting out on the break. They were up by five early in the second half and tied the game at 52-all before the Ducks’ defense stepped up and sent UCLA’s shooting into a tailspin.
“They got to run on us way too much in the first half,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We talked about doing a better job on defense. We depend heavily on young players and we got off to a slow start this year, but we are a totally different team than we were earlier in the year when we had two seniors out with injuries.”
After barely getting by Southern California 76-74 on Thursday, the Ducks won their seventh straight and 11th in their last 12. They are 5-0 in league play for the first time since 1973-74 when the conference had eight teams. Back then, they lost their next game to then-No. 1 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
“We knew it would be a battle and we’re very happy to win a pair in LA,” Kazemi said.
Down by five, the Ducks ran off eight straight points to take a 49-46 lead while the Bruins went 5:17 without scoring. They tied the game at 52-all on a jumper by Wear.
From there, the Ducks slowly built a 62-56 lead, capped by Kazemi’s layup off his own offensive rebound.
Powell hit a 3-pointer and Anderson made two free throws to pull the Bruins within one with 3:30 to play, but they came no closer in front of 12,254, the second-largest crowd of the season at the newly renovated arena.
“They really did a good job slowing the tempo down in the second half and we didn’t handle that really well,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
Muhammad didn’t start as punishment for being late to practice on Friday and he sat the first 5 minutes. The freshman scored 10 of UCLA’s final 12 points to put them ahead 40-37 at halftime.
During Muhammad’s run, the Bruins took their largest lead of six points before E.J. Singler‘s 3-pointer with 6 seconds left cut down the advantage.
The Ducks led by four points early in the game, despite committing four turnovers and going 7 for 20 from the field in the first 9 1-2 minutes.