As Rob Carpentier pointed out in the preview of the game, UCLA's bench could beat Oregon State by double digits and they, in fact, did extend the lead in garbage time.
Perhaps what you would have liked to have seen the most – Josh Shipp get back on track shooting – you can't take away from it. Shipp was 0 for 4 from three and also missed a few mid-ranges. He's now 0 for 19 from three in his last five games.
We're not that worried about Shipp's shooting, however. His mechanics are still sound. When he got in a shooting slump last season there were a few mechanical elements that caused it – fading to one side, hurrying his shot, etc. – but he hasn't shown that during this shooting slump. The shots are close, some of them rimming out. Plus, it's a matter that Shipp isn't necessarily getting the same looks he was at the beginning of the season. Opponents are trying to get on him quickly and not give him space to shoot. Against USC, when they went to a box-and-one, Shipp was the "one" that elicited man-to-man. And why this isn't worrisome is that Shipp was never the focal point of UCLA's offense anyway. Heck, Darren Collison is a better three-point shooter and Russell Westbrook is better off the dribble. So, if opposing teams want to put their best perimeter defender on Shipp and extend their defense against him, that means someone else with at least as much scoring ability has a good chance of being open. UCLA is 4-1 while Shipp has been in his shooting slump, and in the loss against Washington he scored 19 points. In that five-game stretch, Russell Westbrook has averaged 15.4 points per game (just slightly second on the team to Kevin Love's average of 15.8). UCLA's offense, because of its other weapons, will be fine, and might be just as good if Shipp draws so much defensive attention.
Westbrook certainly looked good, but again, this was against OSU, who had a bunch of mid-majors on the court Thursday. In that environment, it's clear what a potential pro looks like in contrast. Westbrook's explosiveness blowing by defenders, ability to get in the lane, his strength around the basket, his vision, and his defense could (gasp!) make him test the NBA waters after this season. UCLA had two major runs that blew up the lead in this game: The first was accomplished with transition scoring; the second run was Russell Westbrook. In the last few minutes of the first half and the beginning of the second, Westbrook scored 9 of UCLA's 16 points, and six successively on lay-ins and and-ones. His strength going to the basket, being able to go up, get fouled hard, but maintain his body control, is truly exceptional. And it's particularly impressive since Westbrook probably has another 15 pounds of muscle to put on over the next couple of years (wouldn't it be great if he did that in UCLA's weight room?).
Westbrook and Collison combined for 31 points, 16 assists and three turnovers, and shot four for six from three. That's efficiency in your backcourt.
Collison's vision – his ability to see the court and find his teammates with passes for easy baskets – is improving. He's seeing seams in the halfcourt offense and threading nice passes for lay-ups far more than he ever has. The one thing about Collison that you'd like to see is for him to take his defender off the dribble more often and penetrate into the paint. When he does this, he's very good at the pull-up and, now, dishing.
The other aspect of the offense you'd like to see is perhaps to get Lorenzo Mata-Real on the court with Love more often. Head Coach Ben Howland talked about it in his post-game comments. Mata-Real, a senior, a veteran of two Final Fours who could easily start for most of the top 25 teams in the nation, could really give UCLA another dimension if he did, in fact, get on the floor more often than to just give Love a blow. Mata-Real, of course, looked very good against lowly Oregon State, but he actually is pretty good offensively now, having developed his low post game with a good jump hook with either hand. We know it comes down to defensive match-ups for Howland – that Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alfred Aboya or James Keefe generally matches up better defensively against the smaller, quicker fours that UCLA generally sees – but it'd still be interesting to see how it would all shake out with Mata-Real playing alongside Love more. While you might give up an advantage if Mata-Real (or Love, for that matter) had to step out to defend a smaller frontcourt player, the advantage UCLA would gain with him on the offensive end would almost certainly off-set it. While teams are trying to keep the ball out of the hands of Love in the block, doubling him even before he catches the ball now, it would be interesting to see Mata-Real on the other block – more than likely wide open or being guarded by a much smaller player. Or if Mata-Real would demand some attention and open up Love more. Then, also factor in the added rebounding and shot blocking element that Mata-Real would present and it's pretty intriguing.
Another aspect of the game that is interesting is the use of Keefe. He had 13 minutes in the game, the same as Aboya, but most of Keefe's minutes were of the more significant variety, in the first half when the game wasn't in blow-out territory yet. Keefe clearly has more upside that Aboya, and perhaps this was a sign that Howland realizes that if he continues to give Keefe more minutes, to get him more comfortable, it could really pay off in March. Keefe had 8 rebounds in his 13 minutes and Aboya had 0. He finished with 6 points, and hit a three. Could it be a situation similar to that of Westbrook l– that we look back on it in a couple of years (or even next year) and, seeing how good Keefe is, wonder why he didn't get more time back then (now)?
UCLA's offense generally operated better against Oregon State's 2-3 zone than against its man. It's hard to conclude that UCLA, now, is better offensively against a zone since they almost certainly are going to see far better zones that OSU's, which allowed dribble penetration pretty easily. But it's at least good to see how confident UCLA is now against both defenses.
UCLA defensively, on the stat sheet looked good, keeping OSU to 35% shooting from the field. But that was probably more of a case of UCLA just being a team of elite high majors while OSU is mostly mid-majors. UCLA's defense had some lapses, again on slow rotations and lazy hedging off screens. It wasn't exploited as much, since it was the Beavers, but the breakdowns were still there.
UCLA is in a good position right now, heading into its game against Oregon Saturday. Love played 22 minutes, Shipp 23 and Mbah a Moute 20, so they should be well-rested for the Ducks, who really struggled against the Trojans Thursday. It gives Mbah a Moute a little more time to get completely healthy from the ankle sprain. We've always maintained all season that UCLA has a chance to be particularly good if they're healthy and the game against a potential NCAA team in Oregon Saturday could give us a glimpse of the Bruins we could see in March.