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Oregon State Basketball: UCLA Bruins Preview (Game 19)

The Beavers and Bruins square off back in Corvallis.

NCAA Basketball: California at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA Bruins (9-9, 2-3)

  • Head Coach: Mick Cronin (1st Season)
  • Top Performer: Chris Smith (12.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
  • Points For: 69.6 PPG (258th)
  • Points Against: 67.4 PPG (136th)
  • Last Game/Streak: 50-40 Win vs. California (1W)

The Skinny

In the long and treasured history of UCLA basketball, the 2019-2020 season probably won’t be remembered as one of it’s finest moments.

The Bruins have struggled to adjust and fill voids under first-year head coach Mick Cronin, who has tasked this finesse group with adjusting to a more rugged and grind-it-out style of play. Cronin has tried to play to his players’ strengths but with no winning culture in place, the mix-and-match nature of this disjointed depth chart has left UCLA in a holding pattern.

The Bruins have now dropped six of their last eight as they head to Corvallis on Thursday night, hopeful that a possibly unfocused and fading Beavers group may be the light on the horizon they need to find their way. After squeaking out an ugly victory against California, it’s safe to say that the Bruins will want their clash with Oregon State to be a junked up contest that lacks any sort of flow.

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at UCLA
Bruins star Chris Smith has taken a strong leap under Mick Cronin, even if the rest of the team hasn’t yet.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of players to know, the consistent inconsistency of the Bruins has made it hard to pinpoint specific pieces. Sure, oversized guard Chris Smith (12.3 PPG) is the best talent on the roster, who also grabs 5.6 boards and shoots an efficient 47.6% from the floor, but even Smith has looked frustrated with the group’s regular inability to put together a full forty minutes. Against some talented pieces who can match his size and versatility, Smith may also struggle to coast to another superb performance.

Beyond Smith, forward Jalen Hill (9.9 PPG) has begun to find his niche as of late, averaging an improved 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds over his last three games. And while Hill’s value has gone up, fellow big man Cody Riley (8.4 PPG) has fallen off, as he hasn’t scored in double-figures since back on December 28th. To round out the front-court, the one-time highly touted prospect Shareef O’Neal (2.2 PPG) and veteran presence in Alex Olesinski (1.6 PPG) both remain marginal contributors.

Just as you might expect, the perimeter pieces are just as confusing for the Bruins, as the status of guard Prince Ali (8.9 PPG), is a probable game-time decision with an ankle injury. The hot hand in the back-court as of late has been Jaime Jaquez Jr. (8.1 PPG), a 6’ 6” freshman sharpshooter coming off consecutive double-digit games, but all that’s done is pick up the slack from guys not contributing more like Jules Bernard (5.9 PPG), Jake Kyman (3.9 PPG) and David Singleton (3.4 PPG). Featured below in our Player To Watch, point guard Tyger Campbell (7.2 PPG) might be the Bruins most reliable contributor, but even that isn’t saying all that much.

So what the heck will go down at Gill on Thursday? For college basketball’s sake, just a well-played game that doesn’t in any way shape-or-form look like what occurred at the end of the Kansas-Kansas State contest on Tuesday.

Player To Watch

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Notre Dame
UCLA’s Tyger Campbell has been one of the few bright spots for an inconsistent Bruins group.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Tyger Campbell (Guard - RS Freshman)

After missing last season due to injury, Tyger Campbell has emerged as the piece that the Bruins desperately need to try and right the ship in Westwood. On a roster that has no player besides Campbell averaging more than 1.8 assists per game, the 4.5 nightly assists from the 5’ 11” distributor simply can’t be understated. His 7.2 points per game sure don’t hurt either, as UCLA has struggled to regularly score the ball.

Game Info

  • Date: Thursday, January 23rd
  • Time: 8:00 PM PT
  • Location: Gill Coliseum (Corvallis, OR)
  • Coverage: Fox Sports 1