UCLA Isn't Challenged by OSU

UCLA beat Oregon State easily, 79-54, led by a first-half offensive outburst where the team shot 61% and Josh Shipp went off for 22 of his career-high 27 points. It's tough to take too much from the game, especially defensively since OSU wasn't much of a challenge...

UCLA cruised to an easy win over Oregon State Thursday, 79-54.

It was a pretty even effort by UCLA, against a team that is, essentially, at this moment, a mid-major program.

UCLA started out a bit slow, not able to score for over 3 minutes, while also allowing Oregon State a few open looks at the basket. If this had been a good team – or even just a decent team like Stanford – UCLA might have found itself in a hole again.

But luckily OSU isn't very good.

With the score at 11-11, the Bruins woke up and went on a 32-8 scoring run to finish the half ahead, 43-19, and that was all she wrote.

UCLA sustained a decent amount of effort on defense in the second half, when it could have gone to sleep leading by 20ish.

But again, the Beavers just aren't very good and it didn't take much of an effort.

Once again, UCLA was driven by its offense. After that initial 3-minute drought, UCLA had one of its best scoring halves of the season, shooting 61% from the field and 7 for 12 from three.

Josh Shipp had one of the best individual scoring halves for a Bruin in recent memory, going off for 22 in the first 20 minutes, hitting four of six threes. He ended up with his career high 27 for the game. UCLA wasn't getting the ball inside much, but they were getting very open looks in OSU's soft 2-3 zone, which allowed a great deal of space on the wing. Darren Collison had six assists and Jrue Holiday had 4 in the first half, and the team totaled 14 assists on 16 baskets in the first 20 minutes. In other words, UCLA was moving the ball and finding open shooters, and UCLA was knocking down its open looks.

Shipp looks far more comfortable and confident offensively than in any time during his career. Give Head Coach Ben Howland a great deal of credit; when it was cited to him a few times that Shipp is a career 32% three-point shooter, he insisted Shipp was a good shooter. And Shipp has proven him to be correct – leading the Pac-10 in three-point shooting percentage at 54%.

Collison had one of the strangest stat lines of his career. If you had said before the game that Collison would get 11 rebounds, you'd say he was pretty much a shoe-in for a double-double. But he scored just 6 points, and took just six shots on the night. With Shipp hot, and actually the rest of the team pretty hot, too, UCLA was scoring without Collison having to find a shot by forcing it into the lane. It's a good thing to actually give Collison a night off from having to make the clutch shots to win the game.

Nikola Dragovic had a solid offensive effort with 13 points, and looked good rebounding the ball (8 rebounds) and passing (2 assists).

Holiday finished with 6 assists, again with some of the prettiest passes. His mid-court alley-oop to Drew Gordon was spectacular. Watching him, you still want him to take the ball to the basket and be more aggressive off the dribble.

Gordon, the freshman post, now looks far more advanced than he was at the beginning of the season. In rebounding, he's not just relying on his jumping ability, but he's blocking out and getting position. He's looking more comfortable catching the ball in the post, and those mini-jump hooks are fluid and well executed, but just barely missing. It's probably just a matter of time before they fall consistently. And defensively, which is probably most important for him in terms of next season, he's vastly improved – much better at staying in front of his man.

Aboya admitted he might have been a little self-conscious, playing for the first time in person in front of his parents. He got into foul trouble early, but then settled down and hit some shots.

Defensively, UCLA was okay; again, it's tough to take much from playing against the Beavers. First off, they don't have a great deal of talent. Secondly, they run a version of the Princeton offense where all five player start off high and try to catch their defender over-playing and them get a basket off a backdoor. Their two leading scorers – Calvin Haynes and Roeland Schaftenaar – were limited to 2 and 4 points on a combined 2-of-15 shooting. Schaeftenaar catches the ball at the high post and looks to dump it down to a cutter on a backdoor, but if he can't find anyone he'll try to loosen up the offense with a few dribbles. Aboya, however, is such an unusually good on-ball defender for a big that Schaftenaar had nowhere to go. Haynes was out of sync all night and Holiday generally did a good job of hounding him. UCLA switched on every high screen or bump and did it very well, and while it created some mismatches defensively OSU just isn't talented enough to really exploit them.

It was a well-scouted, well-coached game by the UCLA coaching staff. Just about the only criticism you can come up with in terms of coaching is why Howland keeps his starters in the game with, say, five minutes remaining, up by 20 or so.

UCLA now needs to hold serve against a pretty poor Oregon team Saturday, and put its faith in the hands of Washington State to beat Washington so the Bruins can get a share of the Pac-10 title.


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