Road isn’t smooth, but Bruins move on
There were just enough good plays by UCLA at just the right moments to stifle Oregon State on Thursday night.
When the game seemed at its dullest, Lorenzo Mata made a sharp pass to a cutting Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Layup UCLA. Or after the Bruins had gone nearly four minutes without scoring, Darren Collison used screens and made a three-point shot.
Despite playing with little passion, especially in the first half, the top-ranked Bruins (14-0, 3-0) pulled away to a 71-56 win over Oregon State (8-7, 0-2) in a Pacific 10 Conference game at Gill Coliseum.
It was a night of stops and starts for the Bruins. Coach Ben Howland had to call a timeout with 3:57 left. Oregon State, it turned out, hadn’t been left for dead after UCLA had collected its biggest lead, 60-45. A Sasa Cuic three-pointer, a UCLA turnover and there was a red-faced Howland demanding some refocused attention.
Quickly enough, though, the Beavers turned the ball over, Arron Afflalo made a jump shot and UCLA collected its first win of the season in a true road game even if there were rows and rows of empty seats and a group of 6,834 attendees who filed out in churchlike silence.
Afflalo said the only sense of energy came when Jack McGillis made a three-pointer to bring Oregon State within a point, 29-28, with 3:05 left in the first half.
“It was kind of a flat atmosphere overall,” Afflalo said.
Howland blamed himself because the Bruins didn’t play fiercely early. “We were a little tired and had a lack of energy and that was my fault,” Howland said.
On Tuesday, Howland put the Bruins through a long and hard practice to “get their attention before our first road game.” Howland said he was sure none of his players would use the excuse of extra hard work and he was right.
“Nah, our slow starts are our own fault,” point guard Darren Collison said.
Collison had a scary fall in the first half. Michael Roll had made a three-pointer and Collison a layup to put the Bruins back up by six after McGillis’ three-pointer and then Collison made a clean steal. He was on his way to a breakaway basket when he slipped and fell, holding his left wrist.
“Just a floor burn,” Collison said. But for about 20 seconds Josh Shipp, the junior swingman, played point guard. “I’ll play any position to stay on the floor,” Shipp said.
Shipp broke down the Beavers’ defense with his dribbling and got Afflalo a chance to be fouled and make two free throws with 4.1 seconds left in the half. More important, Collison came back and got another steal. His layup was blocked but even with a sloppy effort UCLA led 36-30.
“I’m fine,” Collison said afterward.
With 11 points (plus six assists) Collison was one of five Bruins to score in double figures. Shipp had 18, Afflalo 14, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 11 and Lorenzo Mata 10.
Mata’s nifty assist came on UCLA’s first basket of the second half. Shipp scored a layup to make it 40-30 and with that the Beavers seemed to slow down.
Afflalo said there was a point, after a Mata dunk, when he looked at the scoreboard and the Bruins were up by 13, 51-38. “It didn’t seem like we had a 13-point lead and I don’t even know how it happened,” he said.
Even though UCLA had more turnovers (14) than Oregon State (12) and there was no decisive run of excellence, UCLA’s defense was constant. Beavers forward Marcel Jones, a Santa Ana Mater Dei High graduate who had been averaging 15.9 points a game and shooting 46% from the field, had 13 points but missed all five of his three-pointers and committed four turnovers.
It is a short turnaround for UCLA. The Bruins play Oregon at 11 a.m. Saturday in Eugene. Howland suggested the Ducks “will be angry” after suffering their first loss of the season to USC on Thursday night.
“It might be harder for us now,” Shipp said. “But we like a challenge.”