Oregon State Preview

The Bruins have a few things on the line against Oregon State tonight. Mostly, though, UCLA fans want to see the Bruins' young talent continue to show the type of promise it did against Oregon Thursday night...

The UCLA basketball season has gotten very small.


Instead of aspirations regarding Pac-10 championships, high NCAA tourney seeds, Final Fours and such, UCLA fans have lessened their goals. We're now merely looking for signs of life, signs of a future, two good games played in a row (not even wins), and eighth place in the Pac-10 so the Bruins will make the Pac-10 tournament.


Currently, UCLA is in ninth place in the conference with Washington having beaten Washington State last night.  Instead of worrying about the Arizonas and Stanfords of the world, UCLA is now focused on Washington and Oregon State, trying to beat out the Huskies and the Beavers for a berth in the Pac-10 tourney.


So, UCLA will have something definitely on the line when the Beavers play at Pauley tonight.  And we're not even being that facetious (well, a bit).  Not only would a win get UCLA in the thick of that race for the last couple of berths in the Pac-10 tournament (slightly facetious), but if UCLA played well tonight against the Beavers with the right personnel, it would continue to provide some hope that UCLA has the makings of a good team next year (serious). UCLA also has a streak on the line: It's beaten Oregon State 14 times in a row at Pauley.


Oregon State is, by no means, a pushover. Before the season, they were a team that many pointed to as a potential dark horse in the Pac-10.  They got beat up when they hit the Pac-10 schedule, playing the conference's best five teams in its first five conference games. But it's now fattened up on the Washington schools at home, and USC Thursday night on the road, so after going 0-5 to start the Pac-10 they've now won three straight. And it's looking to feast a little more on Bruins. 


Oregon State's most impressive win came Thursday on the road against the Trojans.  USC is a team in a bit of disarray themselves, but it was still a solid win for Oregon State. It was even that much more impressive since they did it with a very off-night from their best player, Phillip Ricci, the 6-7 senior power forward.  Ricci leads the team in scoring, averaging almost 17 a game, but had only 5 points and went 0-7 from the field against USC.  Ricci is a wide load with good post moves down low, but is only moderately athletic.  He struggles sometimes against athletic teams, unable to get his shot off.  It could be a very fun opportunity for UCLA's emerging shot blocker, 6-11 freshman Ryan Hollins. 


Ricci, though, is an experienced player who knows how to get position and how to get younger players in foul trouble. He's also second in the league in rebounding, averaging 8.8 rebounds a game.


If UCLA's young posts can stop Ricci early, and the Bruins' wings double him on the block, enough to disrupt him, it could take him out of his game.  If Ricci eats up UCLA's young guys, it could be a long night.


So, how did the Beavers beat USC?  6-9 senior forward Brian Jackson had a great game, scoring 26 points, and hitting four of five three-point shots. While USC was concentrating on Ricci, Jackson got open looks all over the floor.  And it wasn't a fluke; Jackson, when he came to Oregon State as a freshman was hailed as a potentially big-time player. He hasn't quite delivered on the hype, but he's pretty good nonetheless. He's averaging 12 points a game his senior year and shooting 45% from three.


The Beavers senior trio is completed by guard Jimmie Haywood. Haywood, a bit of an undersized shooting guard at about 6-1,  averages about 12 points a game. He's quick, has decent handle, and has a knack for finding open spots on the floor.  He sometimes makes poor shot selections, but when he gets hot, it goes in regardless.  He had a cold night against USC Thursday.


One of the factors that has really helped the Beavers this year has been the presence of a point guard, 6-4 freshman Lamar Hurd.  It was a question of whether the Ricci-Jackson-Haywood trio would have any kind of anchor on the team before the season, and Hurd has provided that.  He's playing a huge amount of minutes, almost 33 a game, and isn't making that many mistakes.  He likes to penetrate to create, and it's effective with the scorers he has around him. He's not a threat to shoot from the outside so defenses can sag on him, but with his size he's still been pretty effective.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories