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UCLA freshmen step up as stars sit against Oregon

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It was late Thursday night when UCLA's short-handed basketball team finally succumbed to Oregon in double overtime, 87-83.

The Bruins were able to rally from a 14-point second-half deficit without their two best players, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, who were suspended one game for violating team rules.

"I don't know if I've been more proud than I am of this team," Coach Steve Alford said after UCLA fell to 21-7 overall, 10-5 in Pac-12 Conference play.

The suspensions meant a much-longer-than-usual night for freshmen Bryce Alford and Zach LaVine, who replaced Adams and Anderson.

Alford, the coach's son, played 49 minutes and finished with 31 points and six assists. LaVine played 48 minutes and had 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Four Bruins played at least 43 minutes.

"We knew we were going to be tired," Bryce Alford said. "We made some plays. They just made a few more."

Oregon led, 51-37, midway through the second half before the Bruins found another gear.

UCLA's David Wear hit a 30-foot three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. The Ducks finally exhaled after making six free throws in the last 26 seconds of the second overtime.

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Craig Robinson has the best winning percentage of any Oregon State basketball coach since Ralph Miller retired in 1989.

It's .479.

That says a lot about the program, which for a time was as good as any on the West Coast.

Oregon State, which plays UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, is the only Pac-12 program that has not been to an NCAA tournament since 1991.

Since 1992, the Bruins are 37-8 against the Beavers. But Sunday's game should make UCLA wary; Oregon State defeated the Bruins last month in Corvallis, 71-67.

Oregon State (15-11 overall, 7-8 Pac-12) is fighting for an NCAA tournament bid. The Beavers have UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona left on the regular-season schedule. A sweep would make the selection committee take note.

"The uncharted territory is one reason this season has been nice, to be in the middle of the pack, to be in the discussion," Robinson said. "If we're that sixth-place team, if we do well in the [Pac-12] tournament, we might have a shot."

Having a shot is progress.

It could be argued that Oregon State was the conference's premier program in the 1980s. The Beavers ended UCLA's 13-season run as conference champions in 1979-80. They won five conference titles from 1980-90 and went to eight NCAA tournaments.

Then the bottom fell out.

Oregon State has had two winning seasons since 1989-90, winning 20 games once — under Robinson in 2011-12.

Robinson, in his sixth season, has been portrayed as being on the hot seat. "There is pressure from people who want to win no matter what happened the last 20 years," he said.

The win over UCLA last month helped. It gave the Beavers a 5-4 conference record, the first time they have been over .500 midway through conference play since 1999.

Another victory over UCLA would help even more.

"When you look at what's been going on here since Ralph Miller, it's been, 'One guy is not doing it, let's get another guy and then another guy,'" Robinson said of the progression of Beavers coaches, six in the first 19 years after Miller retired. "You don't give anyone time to rebuild right."

chris.foster@latimes.com

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