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
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.
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,
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.