Oregon Upsets No. 2 Seed UCLA
By Michelle Smith
LOS ANGELES - It happened once, it happened twice. It would not happen a third time to the Oregon Ducks.
For the third time this season, Oregon held a halftime lead on UCLA. For the first time, the Ducks made it stick.
Oregon reached the Pac-10 Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2008, upsetting No. 2 seed UCLA Thursday night in the quarterfinal round at Staples Center.
Oregon (16-16) will take on the winner of Thursday's late game between Washington and Washington State in Friday's semifinal game.
This was, in fact, a very different experience for Oregon, who led the previous two games against the Bruins at the half by just three points. But this time, the Ducks dominated nearly from start to finish as UCLA struggled on both ends of the floor.
"Our guys had confidence coming in," said Ducks coach Dana Altman. "Both times we played them before we had a lead. We led by double-figures at one point in Eugene. We were leading by eight or nine at UCLA and their physicality wore us down. But our guys felt good at the end of this game.
"The start of the second half was critical and Malcolm (Armstead) hit those two buckets to keep the lead."
The Bruins (22-10) are still in strong position for an NCAA bid, but not happy about how they went out of this tournament.
UCLA, which has failed to reach the semifinal round for the first time since 2007, got off to a slow offensive start with just six first-half field-goals and couldn't get enough stops on the defensive end to cut into Oregon's lead, which grew from 38-24 at the half and despite an early UCLA run to start the second-half, stayed in double-digits for all of the second half.
"This is a disappointing showing for us after coming off a solid regular-season, to show up like this and play like we did," said UCLA coach Ben Howland. "Our team was not ready to play today, that was really obvious. And that's really frustrating and disappointing because we've won 13 of our last 16 games."
Howland said he was impressed with Oregon's ability to execute offensively and to defend.
"Really they just out-played us and that they didn't have anything to lose," said UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt. "I guess we came in with a too-cool attitude."
Sophomore EJ Singler posted the first 20-point game of his Oregon career in the tournament-opening win over Arizona State. He made it two in a row against UCLA with a game-high 24 points.
Singler was 7 of 9 from the floor and 8 of 8 from the free-throw line in perhaps the best all-around performance of his career.
"We really executed our offense well tonight. I got open shots and tried to be really aggressive," Singler said.
Armstead added 13 points - nine of those in the second half - and Garret Sim contributed 10.
Honeycutt led UCLA with 19 points. Reeves Nelson pulled down 10 rebounds.
Oregon will muster up the will to play its third game in three days on Friday.
"We've been the underdog all year long and coming into this tournament, we wanted to show the Pac-10 we can play," Singler said. "Our energy these past two games has been really high and that's given us the edge."