Oregon State (15-12, 7-8) at UCLA (21-7, 10-5)
When: Sunday, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Rob Stone, Jarron Collins)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)
No. 1: Will Zach LaVine handle the ball more? Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are returning after their one-game suspensions on Thursday, so LaVine won’t get anywhere close to the 17 shots he took in the double-overtime loss to Oregon.
But it’s about more than just his point total. His father, Paul, has been long insistent that the 6-foot-4 freshman is a point guard. LaVine’s brief stint there against the Ducks didn’t disprove that argument. Late in regulation, Bryce Alford and LaVine swapped roles in the backcourt, with the latter taking the reins of the offense.
Alford has been serviceable as a backup point, but he could be even more effective as a two guard — where he can move off the ball and get better looks. The two 3-pointers he hit during the last 33 seconds of the second half were both assisted by LaVine. More importantly, though, is that giving the ball makes LaVine much more comfortable and better utilize his athleticism. Even just doing so for short stretches — say, five minutes a half — would help keep him engaged and give opposing defenses a different look to worry about.
No. 2: How will UCLA guard Oregon State’s big men? Eric Moreland, Angus Brandt and reserve Devon Collier each take at least 32 percent of their shots on 2-point jumpers, giving their offense the ideal tools to stretch and disrupt a zone. In last month’s 71-67 win in Corvallis, Moreland and Brandt did just that to open up the Bruins’ defense — eventually combining for eight of the team’s 17 assists.
UCLA coach Steve Alford thought his team’s late defense against Oregon on Thursday was arguably their best showing of the season. He has also tilted the scheme much more heavily toward man through the past seven or eight games. If David and Travis Wear in particular can hold Oregon State’s forwards in check, the chances of another upset decreases significantly.
No. 3: Is Roberto Nelson due for a big game? The conference’s leading scorer hit two threes to open scoring against the Bruins last month, but went the rest of the game without a field goal. He finished with 12 points in what was then his lowest output in Pac-12 play.
Since then, he’s averaging just over 16 points on 41.5 percent shooting. Nelson has made up for it in part by earning free throws, but in his last five games, he is only 3-of-17 from beyond the arc. He also hasn’t cleared 20 points in that stretch, a mark he’d hit in seven of his first eight conference games.
Freshman Hallice Cooke has the type of quickness that bothers UCLA’s defense more — the 6-foot-3 guard scored a career-high 20 points against the Bruins — but Nelson is still the go-to threat that keeps coaches up at night.
“He can take over games all by himself,” Alford said.
Oregon State starting lineup
C – Angus Brandt, Sr., 6-10, 246: 12.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.6 apg
F – Eric Moreland, Jr., 6-10, 218: 8.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg
G – Langston Morris-Walker, So., 6-5, 216: 4.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 39.1 3P%
G – Hallice Cooke, Fr., 6-3, 185: 7.6 ppg, 2.3 apg, 47.9 3P%
G – Roberto Nelson, Sr., 6-4, 198: 20.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.7 apg