The Beavers (13-5, 4-2) knocked off UCLA (11-8, 3-3) 66-55 Thursday night in Gill Coliseum to move to 11-0 at home on the year. As we've come to expect, they did it with (is it too early to say this?) their patented suffocating zone defense and opportunistic offense.
Late in the game, Malcom Duvivier's free throw shooting took his point total above Gary Payton II's 18, to a game high 19, but it was Payton, below, who really shined.
15 of his 18 came in the first half, and at one time in that half he scored 11 straight of the Beavers' points. 4 of those 11 came off fastbreaks created by a Payton steal. The statsheet filler finished with 5 steals, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists to go on top of his 18 points.
After a Thomas Welsh jumper opened scoring, the Beavers went on a 6-2 run that should have been 8-0. Langston Morris-Walker got around his defender and took the open lane to the basket, went up strong, but missed the dunk. Seemingly out of frustration, he hung onto the rim a bit longer than the refs deemed allowable, and was given a technical. Bryce Alford started his big night by making the 2 free throws and cut the lead to 6-4, when it easily could've been 8-2.
As with most first halves with Oregon State this year, scoring was hard to come by. UCLA wasn't getting many open looks, and when they did, they weren't making them. The Bruins started an icy 0-7 from 3-point range, and ended the half 1-11. They shot 7-30 from the field in the first half, and missed 14 shots in a row after hitting the first shot of the game. There's not much to add about the defense Oregon State plays. It's very good.
The Beavers held a 10-point lead at half, despite being far from perfect offensively. They turned the ball over 9 times, and Langston Morris Walker played just 7 minutes and didn't score a point. Oregon State missed some opportunities late in the half, and UCLA had the final bucket, and you had to wonder whether the Bruins would make the Beavers pay in the 2nd half.
In the beginning of the 2nd period, the answer appeared to be no. Daniel Gomis scored his only points of the night on a layup, Morris-Walker scored his first points of the night the same way, and Duvivier scored 4 points, including 2, above, over Bryce Alford.. The Bruins kept pace thanks to a 3 from Alford, and a pair of scores from Welsh and Kevon Looney. The Beaver lead was 11 about 5 minutes into the 2nd half.
That's right around when the referees, who called just 4 fouls in the entire 1st half, rediscovered their whistles and began to use them. Jarmal Reid, picked up 4 fouls in about 3 minutes. Still the Beavers held strong, and a quick 8-0 run was capped off by a pair of Morris-Walker 3's that extended the Beavers lead to 17 with under 10 minutes to go.
Alford made a 3 to keep the Bruins alive, and Gary Payton II responded with an electrifying dunk, above. Alford calmly drained another shot from well beyond the arc, which was the beginning of a huge comeback effort from the Bruins. Alford, who leads UCLA in scoring and assists, ended the game with 18 and 6, respectively, both team highs as usual. However, he went just 4-13 on 3-point shots.
The Oregon State offense looked lost against the UCLA defense, which had implemented a zone, for about 6 minutes in the middle of the 2nd half, and that was all it took for the Bruins to make it a game again. It wasn't pretty, Wayne Tinkle's team took a pair of timeouts within a minute of each other, and, thanks to the Bruins finding their shooting stroke, it was 51-47 with under 5 minutes left.
A pair of Welsh free throws, 2 of his 8 points, to go on top of 5 offensive rebounds, pulled the Bruins to within 3. About a minute later, Norman Powell, who scored 13 points on the night, chased down a rebound off a missed Olaf Schaftenaar 3 and raced down the court. That's when Gary Payton made one of his biggest plays of the night, swatting Powell's layup and keeping some momentum in orange and black.
A few possessions later, the Beavers had the ball with a 2-point lead, but Schaftenaar kept the Bruins at bay with a clutch 3, above, his 3rd of the game, accounting for 9 of his 11 points. It was Oregon St.'s first basket from the floor in 6 1/2 minutes, and would also be their last.
The lead never fell below 5-points from then on. Duvivier made 8 free throws down the stretch, 2 of which came off a UCLA technical when they called a timeout they didn't have in an attempt to gain possession of a loose ball.
In all Oregon St. sank 16 of 18 from the free throw line, including 11 of 12 in the final 2 minutes of the game, which ultimately decided the outcome.
"Olaf hit a tremendous three, and we made our free throws," Oregon State assistant coach Greg Gottleib said. "That's the sign of a team that knows how to win. If we don't make those free throws, it's a whole different game."
UCLA, who came into tonight averaging 13.78 offensive rebounds per game, ended with 17, but scored just 11 second chance points. They shot 37.9% in the second half, which still brought their overall only shooting barely above 30%.
Meanwhile, the Beavers shot above 50% in both halves, and hit 51.2% for the game.
Oregon St. also cleaned up their ball handling after the break. After 10 turnovers in the first half, UCLA's ability to rally was slowed by only getting 6 second half turnovers.
"The coaches told us to start coming to meet the ball more," Gomis explained, "When you don't come to the ball, someone can come from behind on you. Sometimes, they don't call the soft fouls on that, even though they are fouls, and you have to prevent that by meeting the pass instead of waiting for it."
Let this sink in. Oregon State led the UCLA Bruins for 36:19 tonight, and it doesn't feel like a big deal or a huge feat. And for the first time in 11 years, the Beavers have defeated both Arizona and UCLA in the same season. The culture of this program has begun to change, and over 6,000 fans showed up to see it. The change continues Saturday night at Gill Coliseum, where the Beavers will face the USC Trojans (9-8, 1-4) at 3 PM.
Cue the fight song!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)