The UCLA Bruins have climbed their way back into the national rankings and will attempt to keep rising when they square off with the Oregon State Beavers in Pac-12 Conference action at Pauley Pavilion.
The beginning of conference play has not been kind to the Beavers who have lost all three of their contests after an 80-70 loss to home to No. 7 Arizona. The setback against the Wildcats ended a five-game homestand for the Beavers who lost four of five games during the stretch. The Beavers are now 10-6 as they venture on a two-game road trip that continues against USC on Saturday. Oregon State has split its four previous road games.
UCLA narrowly edged out Colorado, 78-75, on the road in its last outing as the Bruins captured their ninth straight victory. At 14-3 overall the Bruins have taken claim of the No. 24 spot in the most recent top-25 after they were knocked out of it after a rough start to the season. The Bruins have just one loss in 11 games at Pauley Pavilion on the campaign. UCLA will play host nationally-ranked Oregon in its next contest.
Last season Oregon State ended a 13-game losing streak to UCLA with an 87-84 win in Corvallis. However the all-time series is still controlled by the Bruins who have won 88 of a total 123 meetings.
The Beavers shot below 40 percent and were double up on points from beyond the arc (30-15) in the loss to Arizona this past Saturday. Oregon State also had a deficit on the boards (43-37) while trailing by as many as 17 points. Oregon State's only lead of the contest came when the Beavers went up 4-2 less than two minutes into regulation.
Both the offensive and defensive production of the Beavers has fallen off since entering league play. In three conference matchups Oregon State has let up 77 points per game, while netting only 66. Those numbers are much different than the Beavers overall efforts this season as they have scored 75.7 points per game while allowing 69.4. A big reason for the drop in production is the loss of Eric Moreland (10.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg) who was suspended for violating team rules. He will miss his third straight game on Thursday but is expected to be reinstated to face USC. There are still plenty of scoring options on the roster outside of Moreland though, with Roberto Nelson (15.4 ppg) and Devon Collier (14.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) the top scorers on the squad. Ahmad Starks (13.1 ppg) is another offensive threat, while Joe Burton (10.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) adds depth up front.
Despite leading by as many as 13 points against Colorado, UCLA led by just a single point with eight seconds remaining. A pair of free throws from Jordan Adams and a missed 3-pointer from Colorado allowed the Bruins to escape with the win.
Although its numbers have been slightly down in league play, UCLA is still having a stellar year on the offensive end. The squad ranks in the top 30 in the country in both scoring (78.5 ppg, 20th) and field-goal percentage (.478. The offense is predicated on stellar ball movement with the Bruins assisting on the ninth most field goal per game (17.3) in the country. Running the offensive show from the point is Larry Drew (5.9 ppg, 8.1 apg), who leads the Pac-12 and is fourth nationally in assists. On the end of a bulk of those helpers is freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad (18.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg), who leads the Bruins in scoring this season, while ranking fourth in the conference. Adams (16.4 ppg) has been a more than capable second option, while Travis Wear (12.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg) also scores in double figures. Kyle Anderson (9.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.6 apg) doesn't get as many of the headlines but his versatility has been invaluable.