Bruins need to step up defense against Ducks
Offense wasn't the problem for UCLA in their loss at Oregon State on Thursday night. As a team, they shot 57 percent from the field.
Four of the five starters were in double figures, with the exception of Tyler Lamb, who finished with eight points. Joshua Smith scored 10 points off of the bench in 19 minutes.
That would normally be a recipe for success for the Bruins. Normally.
But the defense couldn't stand up to the new and improved Oregon State offensive attack. The Beavers connected on 58 percent of their shots and outrebounded UCLA 24-21 en route to the 87-84 win. When the Beavers stepped on the gas, there was no catching up.
"Defense is what the problem was (on Thursday). Anytime you shoot 57 percent as a team as we did, you'd think we'd have a good chance to win. The problem is they shot 58 percent," head coach Ben Howland told FOX Sports Radio. "We got sped up. Eighty-seven points by our opponent – we're not going to win many games this year if we allow our opponents to score 87."
Or even 80 for that matter. The Bruins are now 0-3 on the season when they allow an opponent to score 80 or more points.
The Bruins are far from an offensive juggernaut, averaging just 69 points on the season. It was just the fourth time this season the Bruins cracked 80 points. The previous three times, they won and won big. They defeated Division II Chaminade 92-60 in Maui. The other wins were over UC Davis (82-39) and UC Irvine (82-60) of the Big West Conference.
The Bruins (10-8, 3-3 Pac-12) must get their defensive acts together if they're going to come away with a win at Oregon (14-5, 5-2) on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. on FOX Sports West.
"We're going to be tested again big time on Saturday. We've got to bounce back. We've got to come back, (and) we've got to play better defense. We're not going to beat anybody in this conference – there's so much parity in our conference – unless we're playing good defense night in and night out," said Howland.
Bruins fans remember E.J. Singler from last year's Pac-12 Tournament. He scored a career-high 24 points to help upset UCLA 76-59.
There may not be a newcomer who's impacted his team as much as Oregon senior guard Devoe Joseph. Since he became eligible last month after transferring from Minnesota, Joseph has averaged a team-high 15 points per game. He also leads the team in field goals made, attempted and minutes over the last 13 games since gaining eligibility.
Joseph's backcourt mate, senior Garrett Sim, is having a career year, averaging career highs of 12.4 points per game and 48 percent from three point range. He tied a season high with 20 points Thursday in the Ducks' win over USC.
Oregon State has a vaunted backcourt that was a handful for the Bruins. They also frustrated UCLA by playing multiple defenses, which prompted Howland to play his starting backcourt more than he would like.
Jerime Anderson and Lazeric Jones played 36 and 37 minutes, respectively. Norman Powell played just 12 minutes off the bench, scoring six points on 2 for 2 from the field. He did commit four fouls, but playing the freshman more minutes is something Howland is going to have to reconsider on Saturday.
"I probably played our two seniors (Anderson and Jones) a few too many minutes. (It) was a tough game for Norman because he's a freshman learning how to play on the road," said Howland. "We've got to live with some more mistakes from him and keep playing him."
Matthew Knight Arena will be a tougher environment than Gill Coliseum. The Ducks are 10-2 at home this season, and if they come out of the locker room wearing either yellow or white uniforms, Bruins beware. Oregon is a combined 10-0 this season when doing so.