LAS VEGAS — Oregon hit bottom at the end of the regular season, its chances of a title washed away with consecutive losses.
A week later, the Ducks are back on top, with a shiny new title to go with it: Pac-12 tournament champions.
Shaking off a disappointing finish to the regular season, Oregon got the postseason off to a great start, completing a three-game run through the Pac-12 tournament with a 78-69 victory over No. 21 UCLA in the title game Saturday night.
Next stop: the NCAA tournament.
“We lost the opportunity to win one championship, so we said let’s go get another one, and that’s what we did,” said Oregon guard Johnthan Loyd, who had 19 points and was named tournament MVP.
Oregon lost a chance to win the regular-season title with losses to Colorado and Utah last week.
The Ducks (25-9) bounced back quickly, knocking off Washington and Utah, two teams that had been on a roll, in its first two games of the Pac-12 tournament.
After a shaky start in the title game, Oregon pulled itself together with superb perimeter shooting and pulled away in the second half after the Bruins made a run.
Carlos Emory had 20 points, Arsalan Kazemi had 12 points and 12 rebounds, and the Ducks hit 7 of 14 from 3-point range to win their third Pac-12 tournament title.
“It was a tough week. A lot of negative things were said about us,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “The guys bounced back, and I thought they showed a lot of character.”
UCLA (25-9) had a hard time keeping up with the Ducks without freshman Jordan Adams, who sat on the bench with a boot on his right foot after breaking it in the semifinals against No. 18 Arizona.
Adams brought the Bruins back from an 11-point deficit by himself against Arizona in the semifinals, scoring 17 of his 24 points in the final 9:57 — 15 straight at one point — in UCLA’s 66-64 win.
The Bruins withstood a last-second flurry by the Wildcats, but Adams didn’t; one of Arizona’s players came down on his foot, breaking the fifth metatarsal. That left the Bruins without their second-leading scorer (15.3 points) and dimmed their hopes the rest of the postseason.
With Adams, UCLA didn’t have the same scoring punch it needed to match the Ducks.
“He’s one of our best players, so I guess when you lose one of your best players, it’s always something you’ve got to try to overcome,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “And we’ll get better at that.”
Larry Drew II had 14 points and six assists, but had five turnovers. Shabazz Muhammad had 14 points and Norman Powell added 10 in Adams’ place for the top-seeded Bruins, who may have lost a chance to play in the West Regionals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Oregon beat UCLA by nine in their lone meeting during the regular season, but was shaky on the big stage at first, with turnovers on its first four possessions and six in the opening 3 minutes.
Once the Ducks settled down, they settled in, hitting their first five 3-pointers during a 17-4 run that put them up 23-18.
Oregon kept hitting from the perimeter — 7 of 9 from the arc — and led 41-32 at halftime.
The Ducks’ efficiency — and the officials — enraged Howland so much that he winged his jacket three rows into the stands after a charging call on Muhammad, earning a technical foul.
“We’ve done a great job all season long with all sorts of adversity as you’re always going to have in every season,” Howland said. “That was really, really poor, and I deserved a technical foul. I behaved poorly, and I’m embarrassed by it.”
But trailing by double figures is nothing to the Bruins; they had done it in every game this tournament.
Muhammad got UCLA started in its two previous rallies after struggling in the first half and did it again. Held to three points on 1-of-3 shooting, the fab freshman scored seven points in the opening 4½ minutes, pulling the Bruins within 49-46.
Oregon kept its composure, though.
The Ducks scored six straight points and did a better of containing Muhammad, keeping a decent cushion until Damyean Dotson helped them stretch the lead to 71-62 on a 3-pointer with 2 ½ minutes left.
Oregon pulled away from there and celebrated at midcourt, its turnaround from last week’s debacle complete.
“It’s something that I hope the guys can learn from,” Altman said. “What a difference if you keep looking ahead a week can make. A week ago at this time I think it’s safe to say that we were probably as low as we could get. But we bounced back. I think it showed a little bit of the character of our team.”