The sloppiness started early, early as in the opening tip, if one could even call it an opening tip.
It was more like a scrum, the UCLA and Oregon State men’s basketball players falling to the ground, tipping over like soda cans in the wind, the ball grabbed simultaneously, a jump ball after a jump ball.
Five minutes into the teams’ matchup at Gill Coliseum on Saturday night, and the clumsy squads combined for eight turnovers and just nine points.
But the Bruins got marginally less sloppy, went on a 22-7 run and ultimately fended off the harried Beavers, 62-52, to finish the first half of Pac-10 play at 5-4.
Facing a trap defense early, UCLA had trouble making the simplest of passes, the easiest of dribbles. Oregon State transitioned into 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses, however, and it cost the Beavers – the Bruins had 16 turnovers in the first 24 minutes, but only four the rest of the way.
“The turnovers in the beginning were all unforced,” said UCLA sophomore guard Malcolm Lee, who had nine points. “It was just careless. I don’t think they were pressuring us like Oregon did; it was more on our part. How did we clean it up? We just took care of the ball more. Point blank, period. We knew that for the most part they weren’t making us turn it over, we were just being careless.
“We just valued the ball more on offense.”
Each possession growing more and more important – particularly as Oregon State (9-12, 3-6) turned a six-point halftime deficit into a two-point lead less than five minutes into the second half – the Bruins cleaned up and concentrated on taking high-percentage shots.
The result? Six minutes later UCLA led by eight and 10 minutes later by 13.
Unlike the Bruins’ disappointing 71-66 overtime loss to Oregon on Thursday – when they let a 13-point lead disappear and shot just 39.1 percent for the game and 30.3 percent from 3-point range – UCLA hit 23-of-35 shots while holding Oregon State to 37.3 percent shooting.
“We were just being real patient,” Lee said. “That zone tries to force turnovers, so we were just picking our spots – when to attack, when to pull it out. That’s why although we only shot (35) times, we had a high percentage.”
While the Bruins mixed the ball around, three players scoring in double figures, led by freshman forward Reeves Nelson’s 14 points, the Beavers seemed eager to let Calvin Haynes take charge.
Perhaps for good reason – Haynes had 16 of his game-high 25 points in the second half of Oregon State’s 51-45 win over USC on Thursday.
UCLA, though, held Haynes to 16 points on 5-of-20 shooting, including 3-of-12 from 3-point range.
Haynes did, however, bring the Beavers back on Saturday, hitting two 3-pointers and three free throws in the final two minutes as Oregon State closed a 15-point advantage with 1 minutes, 38 seconds left to a six-point gap with 32 seconds left.
“We had some dumb fouls at the end, enabled them to get back in it,” said senior guard Michael Roll, who had 11 points. “I think three times we fouled them on jump shots – that stopped the clock and gave them some free throws. But luckily we made most of our free throws down the stretch and they weren’t able to get that close.”
UCLA made 12-of-15 free throws, temporarily righting a season-long wrong, as the team hit the 80-percent mark for the first time since Game 3 against Pepperdine, and just the second time this season.
The Bruins (10-11, 5-4) made them when they mattered, too; freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt hit a pair of free throws with 23 seconds remaining to extend the lead, and Nelson had an emphatic dunk with two seconds left to close out the Beavers.
“I just kind of was tired of the way that last minute-and-a-half went,” Nelson said. “The way they were getting fouled, I was kind of upset. I tried to take it out on the rim.”