UCLA Comes to Town for Pac-10 Opener

The Beavers have won four straight games, their longest winning streak in four years, but the No. 9 ranked UCLA Bruins are in town tonight with hopes of starting a run at their fourth straight Pac-10 championship. 

The Bruins have won seven straight games against the Beavers, by an average of 25.6 points per game. Last year, the Bruins prevailed 85-62 in the first game between the two teams at Gill Coliseum. When the Beavers traveled to Pauley Pavilion later in the year, UCLA held the Beavers to under fifty points and won 84-49.

The Bruins will be again be heavily favored to win both games between the two teams this season. However, the Bruins are 0-2 when opening Pac-10 play in Corvallis although they're 35-24 all-time in Corvallis.

The most recent Beaver victory in the series came on New Years Eve of 2004, when the Beavers handed UCLA a 85-80 loss in Corvallis. David Lucas led the Beavers with 21 points in that game, and J.S. Nash added 20. 

This year's Beavers likely won't go 8-10 in the Pac-10 conference like the 2004-2005 squad did, but the Beavers will look to be competitive against top competition with their newly installed Princeton Offense.  First year head coach Craig Robinson has been working hard to teach the offense to his team in a short ammount of time, and improvements are being made everyday. 

"They pay attention to what we're saying" Craig Robinson said after last week's win over Howard. "They're learning... the curve is still steep and there's a lot to learn but I'm proud of these guys."

The methodical Princeton offense, if executed correctly, could keep the Beavers in games against teams with athletically superior lineups. The Beavers will make a lot of passes, utilize screens and backdoor passes, and look for open layups as much as possible. 

UCLA head coach Ben Howland realizes that Oregon State will try to slow the game down and play methodically. He'll likely deploy some sort of full court pressure defense to try to speed up the game and force the Beavers to play up-tempo basketball.

UCLA is led by 6-0 senior Darren Collison, (pictured, right) who is averaging a conference twelfth-best 14.3 points per game. He's the best free throw shooter in the Pac-10 conference, only missing one shot from the charity stripe in 33 attempts so far. He's also one of the best assist-generators in the conference, averaging over five per game. 

Alfred Aboya, who played much of 2007-2008 behind Kevin Love, will start for UCLA at center. He doesn't have the same size that Love did-- Aboya is 6-9, 245, Love was 6-11, 270-- but Aboya has a large presence on defense for the Bruins. He averages a team-high six rebounds per game, and just under 10 points per game. He scored a combined ten points against the Beavers in the two games last season.

A new addition to UCLA's probably starting lineup is true freshman Jrue Holiday, the 6-3 native of North Hollywood who only lost one game during his high school career. He's a talented combo guard who has a very "smooth" game. He's been putting up 10.6 points per game, and is shooting over 50 percent from the field. 

Junior forwards Josh Shipp and James Keefe round out the starting lineup. Keefe is strong on defense, averaging more rebounds (4.7) than points (4.3) per game. Shipp averages 12 points per game. Freshman Malcolm Lee, who gets 13.5 minutes per game, will travel with the Bruins to Oregon, but likely won't play due to left knee injuries that include a bone bruise.

Oregon State will need big performances from their best players to keep up with UCLA: Calvin Haynes, Omari Johnson, and Calvin Haynes. The Beavers will need a strong inside presence to execute the offense effectively, so it will be important for Roeland Schaftenaar to play well. Daniel Deane, the transfer from Utah, will likely also see minutes in the post as well.

The game is set to tip off at 7:33 on FSN. Swing by BtD during the game to participate in the open thread. Until then, head over to Bruins Nation for a UCLA perspective.

GO BEAVERS!

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)

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