UCLA vs. Oregon State: What to Watch

Oregon State (10-6, 0-3)
Tipoff: 6 p.m., Thursday, Pauley Pavilion
TV/Radio: ESPNU, AM-570

At a glance: Craig Robinson is a man known less for his coaching acumen than for his being Barack Obama’s brother-in-law. Through his first four years in Corvallis, the Beavers have hovered around mediocrity, finishing with 18, 14, 10 and 21 wins. They made the postseason three times, but only to the College Basketball Invitational. Only once have they won even eight conference games.

This year’s Oregon State squad isn’t exactly breaking the pattern, though injuries haven’t helped. Center Angus Brandt, a floor-stretching 3-point threat who also averaged 11.3 points and 8.5 rebounds, tore his ACL in November. At Pauley Pavilion, the Beavers will also be without forward Eric Moreland, who is serving the end of a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules. The 6-foot-10 sophomore is sixth in the nation with 11.1 rebounds per game, and his absence will likely be a boon for UCLA’s long but slim frontcourt.

Robinson’s squad ranks dead last in the conference in both scoring and field-goal defense, so it’s not one that will have much success trying to slow the Bruins down — as other Pac-12 teams have done. Oregon State has also lost three games at home to open the Pac-12 schedule, all by double digits.

Players to watch: Shabazz Muhammad admitted to being a high-volume shooter this week, something Kyle Anderson said the team will live with. Expect him to shake off his 9-of-29 shooting over the past two games when he faces the Beaver’s zone.

Oregon State guard Ahmad Starks may be the conference’s purest manifestation of that role, a 5-foot-9 gunner who takes most of his shots from long range. Only five times this season has he taken fewer attempts inside the arc than outside. He’s making 42.9 percent of his 3-pointers as opposed to just 37 percent of his twos, but his playing style often bogs down the Beavers’ offense as it more or less rotates through a series of one-on-one possessions.

Devon Collier may be the team’s best offensive threat, but he doesn’t command a featured role. With Moreland out the past two games though, the junior has seen a slight uptick in minutes (31 and 33 compared to 26.0 on the season). He’s also coming off a season-high 15-rebound performance against Arizona.

OREGON ST STARTING LINEUP:
C – Joe Burton, 6-7, 295, Sr., 10.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.1 apg
F – Jarmal Reid, 6-7, 225, Fr., 2.2, 1.9, 1.3
F – Devon Collier, 6-8, 215, Jr., 14.6, 6.8, 1.9
G – Roberto Nelson, 6-3, 195, Jr., 15.4, 3.1, 2.9
G – Ahmad Starks, 5-9, 165, Jr., 13.1, 2.4, 1.9

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