UCLA Bruins (13-5)
- Latest BTD Pac-12 Power Rankings: 2nd Overall (13-5)
- Head Coach: Steve Alford (5th Season)
- Top Performer: Aaron Holiday (18.9 PPG, 5.2 APG)
- Points For: 84.0 PPG (25th)
- Points Against: 76.2 PPG (T-275th)
- Last Game/Streak: 68-59 Loss v. Colorado (1L)
Oregon State knew their road trip to the Grand Canyon State would not be a fun task to handle at the mid-way point of the season.
With Arizona and Arizona State both proving themselves as some of the toughest competition in the conference, the Beavers ended up heading back to Corvallis with two respectable, yet fruitless efforts to their name, after dropping contests to both the Wildcats and the Sun Devils. And while Oregon State did play an improved brand of basketball, the need for victories has become ever more urgent for a team who has now lost four of their last six contests.
Head coach Wayne Tinkle and company need to make a statement come Thursday night, when they welcome a high-scoring UCLA squad to Gill Coliseum.
The obvious game-plan for the Beavers will be to contain the Bruins effortless offense, that’s anchored by a balanced mix of veteran mainstays in Aaron Holiday (18.9 PPG) and Thomas Welsh (12.8 PPG), as well as youthful talents in Kris Wilkes (13.7 PPG), Jaylen Hands (11.6 PPG) and Prince Ali (10.3 PPG). Combined, UCLA may not have the depth of let’s say an Arizona, but surely, they have the top-level pieces to make any opponent hold their breath.
And that’s enough to put a scare into a team like Oregon State.
While the Beavers have been improving defensively (currently allowing 68.7 PPG), it’s more of the overall effort to control the pace of games that’s been the most evident in some of the program’s successes compared to last season. It seems that the Beavers are more cohesive, more understanding of the game and more in-sync with Tinkle’s coaching style, especially as the grind of the Pac-12 lays out in front of them.
It’s just a question of getting the job done now.
Sitting at 10-7 on the season and 2-3 in league play, the time for moral victories is simply not there anymore for the Beavers.
Oregon State needs to find ways to close out games now and start their two-game home-stand against the squads from the City of Angels off on the right foot.
Players To Watch
Aaron Holiday (JR - Guard): After playing in a complimentary role over his past two seasons with the Bruins, junior guard Aaron Holiday has come into his own as both a scorer and distributor this time around in Westwood. With more than enough talent still surrounding him to get the job done, Holiday has begun to find his niche as arguably the team’s most consistent option.
Kris Wilkes (FR - Forward): The freshman forward is not always Steve Alford’s most efficient player by any means but in the Bruins’ free-flowing style, he’s the right mix of skill and versatility for the job. Kris Wilkes may be a match-up issue for the Beavers due to his athleticism and ability to flourish in the full-court. Oregon State’s bigs will need to be sure to get back on defense in transition to avoid handing Wilkes some easy scores.
Thomas Welsh (SR - Forward): A more traditional type of double-double forward for UCLA, when things do slow down for the Bruins is when guys like Thomas Welsh really begin to get themselves going. Welsh plays soundly with both Holiday and freshman Jaylen Hands, the team’s two primary ball-handlers, and he can operate anywhere from the low-post to the corner. He may not be the flashiest of players on the Bruins roster, but quietly, Welsh finds his ways to impact the game.
- Date: Thursday, January 18th
- Time: 8:00 PM PT
- Location: Gill Coliseum (Corvallis, OR)
- Coverage: Fox Sports 1