UCLA comeback falls short as Oregon ends Bruins' season in Pac-12 tourney

For UCLA to go on an improbable run in the Pac-12 tournament, coach Mick Cronin said, the Bruins would need their best players to carry them.

That’s hard when your top defender and the player you run your offense through barely plays.

Mired in foul trouble for practically the entire game Thursday afternoon, Adem Bona played just 17 minutes and the Bruins looked beaten in falling behind Oregon by 10 points with a little more than four minutes to play in a quarterfinal.

Nine consecutive points brought the Bruins within a point before they got the ball back. But a Dylan Andrews floating jumper rolled off the rim and then Oregon’s N’Faly Dante got the bounce on a jump hook to help the Ducks pull out a 68-66 victory at T-Mobile Arena that ended UCLA’s season.

The Bruins were down by a point again after Andrews drove for a layup with 11 seconds left. UCLA fouled Jermaine Couisnard with 10 seconds to go and he made both free throws, putting the Bruins in need of a three-pointer to send the game to overtime.

UCLA couldn’t get one off, the Ducks fouling Andrews and sending him to the free-throw line with 5.1 seconds remaining. Andrews made both free throws before the Bruins fouled Jackson Shelstad, who missed his first free throw and made his second.

UCLA’s Lazar Stefanovic inbounded the ball to a sprinting Andrews, who drove for a layup that bounced off the back of the rim. Season over.

In what could have been his final college game before heading to the NBA, Bona finished with eight points and four rebounds in his cameo appearance. Andrews scored 24 points and Sebastian Mack added 16, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Bruins (16-17) from their first losing season since the 2015-16.

Oregon (21-11) will play top-seeded Arizona in a semifinal Friday evening after Dante scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds while taking full advantage of Bona’s absence.

Things were trending in Oregon’s favor early in the second half when Bona appeared to come up with a steal only for a late whistle to blow. It was Bona’s third foul, prompting some laughter from Cronin at what he considered the absurdity of the call.

Cronin had lambasted conference officials over what he described as a bias against Bona during a halftime interview with the Pac-12 Network.

“It’s ridiculous, the way Bona’s treated in our league. Completely ridiculous,” Cronin said at halftime. “It’s been going on all year too.”

Having barely played in the first half because of foul trouble, Bona headed to the bench while ceding his spot to Kenneth Nwuba with 15:40 left in the game. But Nwuba was called for goaltending and the Bruins briefly tried a small-ball lineup featuring forward Brandon Williams.

Trailing 46-40 with 12:30 remaining, the Bruins went back to Bona. He drove toward the basket and drew a foul before making two free throws and later powering in for a layup over Dante to tie the score at 47-47.

But Dante’s revenge came only seconds later when he scored over Bona while drawing Bona’s fourth foul, sending him back to the bench with 10:14 to go.

He would return, only to suffer more disappointment, holding his hands on his head after Andrews’ final shot didn’t go down.

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