Through 14 games, Oregon forward Dillon Brooks has taken a step to the side or backwards in nearly all major offensive categories—his long ball is hitting just 30 percent of the time. Still, as he has throughout his career, the third-year player from Ontario has focused on basketball’s fundamental tasks, like pissing off Coach K and draining nasty buzzer-beaters, and it’s working out for the 12-2 Ducks.
Last night, the elder Oregon star got back to his old ways, working UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, the rookie forward of the future, to the tune of 23 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and a game-winning step-back 3-pointer.
Throughout the first half, age won out easily. Ball was held to three points, three boards, and a turnover, as his counterpart dropped 12 points, three assists, and two rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. Brooks was masterful throughout, using his full arsenal of jabs and head fakes to work to the lane and get to the line—Oregon made this a priority all night, finishing 18-of-25 from the charity stripe as a team while UCLA went to the line just 12 times.
The freshman Bruin finally started hitting shots at the 10-minute mark in the second half, draining three straight 3-pointers to take UCLA from trailing 65-61 to leading 70-65. Ball wasn’t heard from again until the final two minutes—luckily for the Bruins, forward Thomas Welsh and guard Bryce Alford showed up to play, as both dropped 20 points and combined to shoot 15-of-22 from the field.
With 50 seconds remaining, Oregon guard Dylan Ennis closed the UCLA lead to two on a pair of free throws, only to have Ball use his lanky arms to finish a layup over Brooks and push his team’s lead back to four. But Ball was not to play the hero. A Payton Pritchard three-pointer pulled Oregon within one; after a missed free throw from Alford, Brooks snatched the victory with the second-most badass trey of his career.
The loss was UCLA’s first of the season, as the second-ranked Bruins cruised through their nonconference slate, downing Ohio State, Michigan, and Kentucky.