Third Scorer Sought

Times Staff Writer

Can a team go deep into the NCAA tournament while averaging fewer than 70 points?

Can a team succeed with only two dependable scoring options?

The answer to both questions is probably no.

Which is why the UCLA Bruins, for all their unexpected success despite injuries to all 12 scholarship players and a freshman- and sophomore-laden roster, face failure if they advance into the NCAA tournament with their current scoring average of 67.4.

Yes, the Bruins are 20-6 overall and at 10-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference tied for the league lead with California heading into tonight’s game against Oregon State at Pauley Pavilion. But unless they can develop a dependable third scorer behind guards Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, the Bruins may not have enough firepower to survive against the nation’s better teams.


That point was made clear in UCLA’s last two games, both losses. Against the Washington Huskies, Farmar and Afflalo shot a combined four for 23 and UCLA lost, 70-67. In a three-point loss at USC, the pair scored 40 of the Bruins’ 68 points, but got little help -- especially in the middle where starting center Ryan Hollins was scoreless in 22 minutes.

Afflalo, averaging 16.8 points, and Farmar, averaging 14.1, have been the leading scorer in 21 of UCLA’s 26 games. In one of the other five, Farmar didn’t play because of an ankle injury.

The third option Bruin Coach Ben Howland was counting on was Josh Shipp, who averaged 11.3 points in four games before the pain from off-season hip surgery proved too intense to allow him to continue.

“I think we’ve got to look at [swingman Michael] Roll, [guard] Darren Collison and then, definitely, we’ve got to get something from one of our [frontcourt players],” Howland said.

Other possibilities are senior Cedric Bozeman, whose season has been marred by tendinitis in his right knee and torn cartilage behind his left shoulder, and freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who has exceeded expectations by averaging 8.6 rebounds, third-best in the conference, and has twice led UCLA in scoring while averaging 8.6 points.

“It’s been different people different nights,” Bozeman said. “For me, I need to pick and choose my spots. If we go inside, we have to be confident we’ll get scoring there. And if we do, it frees people up a lot on the outside.”


Asked about Hollins’ failure to provide a third scoring option against USC, Afflalo pointed his finger right back at himself and his fellow guards.

“That’s our fault,” Afflalo said, “We need to give him the ball more. He needs somebody to feed him the ball. You can’t always force feed it, but we have to get it to him.”


Even though they were only playing across town at the Sports Arena, the bus ride back to Westwood on Sunday night seemed agonizingly long for the Bruins after they lost to the Trojans, 71-68.

“Nobody was talking,” forward Alfred Aboya said. “Everybody was into their own heads, thinking about what had happened. It was a pretty sad ride.”


vs. Oregon State, 7:30, FSN West 2

Site -- Pauley Pavilion.

Radio -- 1150.

Records -- UCLA 20-6, 10-4 Pacific 10 Conference; Oregon State 11-15, 4-11.

Update -- Aboya is doubtful for tonight after straining his left hip flexor in practice Tuesday. Oregon State sophomore forward Sasa Cuic has led the Beavers in scoring in four of their last five games. In Oregon State’s first game against UCLA, Cuic scored a game-high 24 points but the Bruins won, 63-54.

Tickets -- (310) 825-2946.