If UCLA is to hang on and win the Pac-12 Conference regular-season title, the Bruins are going to have to earn it.
First-place UCLA (17-6, 13-4 Pac-12) has a half-game lead over Oregon and USC, with games against the Ducks and Trojans ahead this week.
"We're going to find out over the next week what we're made of," said UCLA coach Mick Cronin, whose team plays Wednesday night at Eugene, Ore. "Are we a year away or are we ready for this? Are we going to get better through each one of these trials; are we going to be tougher at winning time?"
UCLA lost 70-61 Saturday at Colorado despite Johnny Juzang's 25 points. The Bruins led 57-55 with 8:11 remaining but committed six turnovers and were outscored 15-4 the rest of the way.
Still, the storied UCLA program is in the driver's seat for its first conference title since 2012-13.
"I was looking up at the banners (Monday) in practice and saw that, I think, the last one was in 2013," Bruins forward Cody Riley said. "So for us to be the group to be able to put that up on a banner, that's extremely important for us."
The Ducks (17-5, 12-4) have won eight of their past nine games to close in on UCLA. They defeated visiting Arizona 80-69 Monday night in a makeup game as Chris Duarte had game-high totals of 22 points and seven rebounds and Eugene Omoruyi scored 21.
"We know we have to get UCLA on Wednesday," said Duarte, who is among the top five in the conference in both scoring (17.4 points per game) and 3-point shooting (44.1 percent). "We're just very excited about that chance we have, winning the conference title. We're just taking it day by day.
After Wednesday's showdown with UCLA, the Ducks will close their regular season at rival Oregon State on Sunday.
"It's just great to be in this position," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "Through the two pauses (due to COVID-19 protocols earlier this year) and a couple bad losses at home, for them to be resilient and fight back like they have -- they didn't get down. They came back and did a tremendous job. So I want them to have fun; I want them to enjoy this week."
This will be the first meeting between the Bruins and Ducks this season, although they have been scheduled to play on four previous dates -- all postponed because of coronavirus concerns.
--Field Level Media