UCLA gets past Oregon State, 65-56


UCLA’s postseason destination, if any, this basketball season, still has fill-in-the-blank possibilities.

The Bruins still have high hopes -- the NCAA tournament -- with a low-rent possibility -- a first-round home game in the NIT -- as well as the unacceptable, as the $60,000 per home game guarantee the College Basketball Invitational demands is probably too steep of a price.

A 65-56 victory over Oregon State at Pauley Pavilion Thursday may not inspire many whimsical NCAA tournament daydreams, but in Westwood these days, a win is a win.

The Bruins teetered, and Tyler Honeycutt propped them up. The Beavers cut a 12-point Bruins lead to 50-49 with 4 minutes 42 seconds left. Honeycutt, who scored 18 points, sank a three-pointer and then had a steal that sent Malcolm Lee off for an uncontested layup.

All of which meant the Bruins (13-14 overall, 8-7 in Pacific 10 Conference play) will wake up tied for third in the conference standings Friday morning.

“This definitely helps us as we get closer to the [conference] tournament,” said Honeycutt, who made seven of 10 shots. “Maybe we can get a couple more wins and get into second place.”

More performances from Honeycutt like Thursday’s could help that along. He had 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and five blocks.

“When was the last time we had someone with five blocks?” UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. “Not this season.”

Said Honeycutt: “We just have come out and do it again Saturday [against Oregon].”

That would fit nicely into the Bruins’ plan.

“We’re looking at the Pac-10 and the NCAA tournament,” Honeycutt said. “If the NIT happens, it happens, but that was not one of our goals heading into the season.”

Or any season, as senior guard Michael Roll sees it.

“I don’t even know anything about the NIT,” Roll said. “I heard rumors, maybe that the girls got invited couple years ago and UCLA turned it down. I don’t know if we’ve even played in the NIT here, just because of the success we’ve had in the [NCAA].”

The Bruins have played in the NIT . . . twice.

“There’s no proof about that,” Roll said.

There could be. The Bruins had what could be called a banner season in 1985, winning the NIT, if they would only hang the banner.

“Our goal is to try to win the Pac-10 tournament,” Howland said this week.

The Bruins’ only hope of extending their NCAA tournament run to six consecutive seasons is by winning the conference tournament. But pulling off three victories in three nights seemed an iffy proposition even before injuries set in.

The Bruins have lost forward James Keefe (shoulder surgery) for the remainder of the season, and could be without forward Reeves Nelson (torn retina) as well, leaving them thin on the inside. Brendan Lane sat out Thursday because of a sprained ankle. Nikola Dragovic injured his left shoulder Thursday but still scored 14 points.

Howland went with a three-guard lineup at the start of Thursday’s game, and Oregon State (12-15, 6-9) had a 40-24 rebounding edge.

But the Beavers shot 35% and made only three of 20 three-pointers.

“I’d like to take credit for it, but they missed a lot of wide-open shots that went our way, thank God,” Howland said.

A new low for Trojans USC scores 12 points in the second half and falls to Oregon, 54-44. C4