A wild game that included UCLA building an early 18-point lead and trailing by halftime needed a fittingly crazy coda.
The Bruins provided it, turning a taut game into a near-runaway over the final minutes of a 71-63 victory over Oregon on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA finished the game on a 9-2 run for its third consecutive victory and its fifth triumph in six games. Dylan Andrews swished a three-pointer and a short jumper, and Sebastian Mack made two free throws after coming up with a steal in the backcourt and drawing a foul, helping the Bruins (11-11 overall, 6-5 Pac-12) move back to .500 for the first time since late December.
Looking lost three weeks ago after a 46-point beatdown against Utah, UCLA is suddenly only 1½ games out of first place in the conference standings after knocking Oregon (15-7, 7-4) into second place behind front-runner Arizona.
Andrews continued his surging play with 21 points and seven assists to go with only two turnovers and Mack had 16 points. UCLA’s Lazar Stefanovic added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
There was a crackling electricity inside the building with one of the season’s largest crowds and a list of basketball luminaries that included former UCLA coach Jim Harrick, Bruins stars Swen Nater and Jamaal Wilkes, and Lakers forward Robert Horry.
UCLA backup freshman center Aday Mara was literally in the middle of his team’s 9-0 push that gave it a 57-48 lead, scoring off two lobs from Andrews, playing strong defense and ripping down a defensive rebound with elbows swinging. The run ended only when Mara and teammate Mack, fighting for another defensive rebound, knocked the ball into Oregon’s basket in the basketball equivalent of an own goal.
Oregon arrived much later than it wanted to, the team bus pulling up to the arena after getting snarled in traffic related to an L.A. visit from President Biden.
For the game’s first eight minutes, the Ducks might have wished they kept going.
It was all Bruins early, Mack coming up with a steal on the game’s opening possession and feeding Andrews for a three-pointer. Mack was on the attack, scoring seven quick points to go with two steals. After forcing a jump ball that led to a Ducks turnover, he flexed his arms and roared.
UCLA was in complete rhythm, building an 18-point lead with 12:20 left in the first half after making eight of 12 shots and all three three-pointers. But Mack and teammate Adem Bona both sat on the bench for long stretches in foul trouble, Mack departing for the final 14:16 of the first half and Bona for the final 5:37.
Oregon’s Jadrian Tracey sparked a comeback with three consecutive three-pointers — the last of which was wide open — as the Ducks surged into a 34-33 halftime lead on the strength of a 16-2 run.