The Ducks had UCLA right where they wanted them in the first half. Riding the momentum from the blowout against Arizona, the Ducks led by as many as 19 in the first half against the Bruins last Thursday. UCLA managed to trim the lead some before halftime, only to have Oregon increase the lead back up to 15 early in the second half. Then the collapse happened. The Ducks’ offense regressed to its early season struggles, and the Bruins began capitalizing on every mistake. Suddenly, Oregon was playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. UCLA ultimately won the game 82-79, getting revenge for Dillon Brooks game-winning three back in December. It was Oregon’s biggest collapse of the season, and since the team controlled its own destiny for the Pac-12 title, it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Oregon was able to recover and beat USC 81-70 on the road just two days later, but the damage had already been done to Oregon’s lead in the Pac-12. Oregon owned the tiebreaker with second place Arizona, and another victory over UCLA would’ve destroyed the Bruins’ conference title chances. The Ducks were in position to make their job much easier going into the postseason, but will now be forced to run the table and hope for an Arizona loss to end the regular season atop the Pac-12.
Obviously, Oregon winning the regular season Pac-12 title is not out of the realm of possibilities, but it won’t be an easy feat to accomplish either. The final two home games of the season will be played against two teams that each put up a fight against the 22-4 Ducks just three weeks before. Colorado even gave Oregon its first conference loss of the season, snapping the Ducks’ 17 game winning streak. Utah was also able to play with Oregon until the last minute of the game. While Oregon is noticeably better at home than on the road, the team will still need to bring its A-game if it wants the undefeated home record.
The Ducks will not likely have the same troubles that drove them to a loss in Boulder. The fact that Saturday’s rematch will occur at Matthew Knight Arena is the biggest sign of that. Playing at Utah and Colorado within 48 hours of each other is draining on a team. It’s uncommon for teams to go 2-0 on that trip due to the elevation in both states. It was easy to see how drained the Ducks were in the first match-up with Colorado. The Ducks allowed Colorado to score over 70 points — something Oregon’s defense has only allowed six times this entire season — while shooting under 40 percent. With the hostile environment Matthew Knight has become behind the Ducks, it’s unlikely that the Ducks will slip up the way they did at Colorado, and almost did at Utah.
After this home stand, the Ducks will travel back to California to take on the Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal before finishing off the regular season at Oregon State.