LAS VEGAS – Johnathan Loyd dribbled a couple times, and then heaved the ball high toward the ceiling of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
After a tournament filled with thrilling finishes and clutch performances, Loyd and the Oregon Ducks didn’t need an overtime period or a last-second shot to take home the Pac-12 tournament championship.
Instead, the Ducks simply controlled top-seeded UCLA for most of Saturday’s game, staving off each of the Bruins’ attempts to pull even en route to a 78-69 victory.
Consider it a bit of revenge, too. Oregon entered the final weekend of the regular season tied with UCLA for first place in the conference, but suffered an embarrassing sweep at Colorado and Utah while the Bruins won their final game to clinch the regular-season title.
But after a wild four days in Las Vegas, it was Oregon cutting down the nets after playing this week like it did while starting the season 18-2.
“Exactly a week ago at this time, I think it’s safe to say we were as low as we could get,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman. “…We bounced back. I think it takes a lot of character to do that.”
Loyd, a Las Vegas native, was again key offensively, shooting 8 for 14 from the field while scoring 19 points to earn tournament MVP honors. Carlos Emory led the Ducks with 20 points, and Arsalan Kazemi scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“This is an amazing feeling,” Loyd said, “to do this in front of my family, friends, hometown.”
Each time UCLA threatened to pull even, the Ducks (26-8) added just enough cushion to their lead to keep the Bruins (25-9) at bay.
The Bruins pulled within two or three points on three separate occasions in the second half, the last coming on Larry Drew II’s 3-pointer with 12:06 remaining that trimmed Oregon’s lead to 54-52.
But the Ducks were resilient. Loyd’s jumper, Kazemi’s open-court steal and dunk, and a bucket by E.J. Singler pushed Oregon back ahead 60-52. The score was never closer than two possessions after that.
There was again a controversial – or just plain incorrect – call by an official that led to a technical foul against a coach. On Friday, Arizona coach Sean Miller received a crucial T after arguing an iffy double-dribble call, then repeatedly voiced his displeasure with the call during his postgame press conference.
This time, UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad made a layup on a one-on-one transition drive, but he was called for a charging foul after Emory slid under him on his way to the basket.
Bruins coach Ben Howland went ballistic. He removed his jacket with great fury, then heaved it into the seats behind UCLA’s bench.
Howland received a technical foul for his efforts. The jacket was recovered and the coach put it back on. He wore it the rest of the game.
And he took a different tack than Miller in describing his actions.
“I was very embarrassed by that to lose my composure,” Howland said. “It’s a terrible example for our team to have their coach behave in such a manner.”
If the jacket-toss was intended to motivate the Bruins, it didn’t work. Damyean Dotson’s technical free throws gave the Ducks an eight-point lead at the time, and the margin was nine by halftime.