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Freshmen leading Oregon, while UCLA sees improvement

freshmen-leading-oregon,-while-ucla-sees-improvement

Oregon and UCLA each seek 2-0 opening weekends in Pac-12 Conference play on Saturday when the Bruins visit the Ducks in Eugene, Ore.

Oregon (9-3, 1-0 Pac-12) overwhelmed Southern California early in Thursday’s league opener, building a lead of as many as 20 points in the first half en route to an 82-74 win.

Freshmen Kwame Evans Jr. and Jackson Shelstad each scored career highs with 22 and 21 points, respectively. Evans also pulled in eight rebounds and powered the Ducks’ defense with five steals.

Evans’ standout all-around performance provides a cornerstone for Oregon building into the conference schedule, with the Ducks down two key veterans on the interior.

N’Faly Dante, an All-Pac-12 honoree a season ago, has been out since the season opener after having knee surgery. Nate Bittle is likely out for the season due to a wrist injury.

“When they went down, I had to step up,” Evans said in Thursday’s postgame press conference. “When (Oregon coach Dana) Altman talked to me he wanted me to instill confidence, play physically, play with a lot of effort.”

Oregon heads into Saturday’s contest seeking a third consecutive win, while visiting UCLA aims for back-to-back victories for the first time since opening the season 3-0.

The Bruins (6-6) pulled out of a four-game skid on Thursday when they rallied in the second half to beat Oregon State 69-62.

Dylan Andrews and Adem Bona each scored 13 points to lead five Bruins scorers in double figures. Defensively, UCLA held Oregon State to 22-of-50 shooting from the floor and forced 14 turnovers while committing only nine turnovers on the other end.

“Three things that we focused on and identified (coming off the losing streak): We got to guard the ball better. We did that,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said in Thursday’s postgame press conference. “We got to stop fouling. We did that until late into the game. They didn’t shoot a free throw in the first half. Maryland shot 30 (in UCLA’s 69-60 loss on Dec. 22).

“… When we help, we’ve got to get something done. Steal the ball, block a shot. We can’t just help and leave people open.”

–Field Level Media

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