It's good timing for UCLA, which is lacking one of its best players in shooting guard Brian Morrison, who is still out with a strained hamstring.
Oregon State is currently 6-4, which is deceiving since their wins have come against Prairie View, IPWF (quick – what is IPWF? Hint: It's not a professional wrestling team*), Kansas State, Willamette, Sacramento State and Jackson State.
The Beavers, under second-year head coach Jay John, are in for a tough season. They were 13-15 a season ago, and have lost three significant starters from that team, including two double-digit frontcourt scorers. John, though, has Oregon State playing hard and with purpose, even though that won't get him very far with the lack of talent he has on his roster.
Two players have stepped up for Oregon State to take over the scoring load, 6-1 sophomore shooting guard Chris Stephens, and 6-7 junior power forward David Lucas. Both are averaging about 15 points a game, with Lucas also leading the team in rebounding (6.4) and Stephens in three-point shooting (24 in 10 games). It's not really that either of these two are big, impact players, but merely that there was a 30-point void left from last year that they've stepped into when Brian Jackson and Phillip Ricci left. Stephens is a streaky shooter, who can get hot, or be cold for long periods. He is a decent ball-handler who also tends to make pretty questionable decisions at times. Stephens is the guy that can hurt you with his potential long-range shooting, and defending him is where UCLA will miss Morrison the most tonight. Lucas is really the go-to guy on the team, with some nice post moves and touch around the basket. He has to get touches for Oregon State's offense to score.
6-1 junior guard J.S. Nash is the other third in OSU's scoring triumvirate, averaging just about 10 points a game. Nash likes to shoot and can play tough defense at times. He and Stephens present a pretty small wing duo, one that isn't particularly quick and the much taller and longer Dijon Thompson and Trevor Ariza should be able to dominate defensively.
The starting point guard is sophomore 6-3 Lamar Hurd, who leads the team in minutes played, mostly because OSU doesn't have another true point guard. Hurd has some promise, with good size and athleticism, but is still gaining experience at the position. He can play passively at times and make wrong decisions. Scarily for Beaver fans, he has the most starts of any returning player on the roster.
6-11, 260-lb. junior Derek Potter starts at center, mostly to establish a physical presence initially inside. He plays only 7 minutes a game and is pulled for quicker, more athletic – but considerably smaller baseline players. 6-6 forward Jim Hanchett gets most of the remaining frontcourt minutes, plays tough around the basket. He averages nine points and five boards a game in 22 minutes. Promising 6-9 freshman Kyle Jeffers has contributed some solid minutes, showing some good touch around the basket and rebounding ability. 6-11 Kevin Fields is a big body who hasn't caught up to the speed of the college game yet as a sophomore. 6-7 Kenny Hooks also rotates in to give Lucas a breather.
The designated shooter off the bench is 6-2 freshman guard Angelo Tsagarakis from France.
Even without Morrison, UCLA is too talented for the inexperienced, young and talent-thin OSU. OSU's defense is probably the worst in the Pac-10, lacking athleticism inside and quickness on the perimeter. Watch for UCLA's shooters – Dijon Thompson and T.J. Cummings -- to find many open looks from 10 feet out beyond the three-point line, and then on the other side of the court, UCLA's length to disturb Oregon State's slower, smaller guards.
UCLA, also, off a disappointing loss to Michigan, returns home to Pauley Pavilion, and Cummings and Ariza will get more in the flow of the offense tonight.
Oregon State 63
*IPFW is Indiana-Purdue-Fort Worth University