As GBruin pointed out in his postgame, seemingly where UCLA plays is as an important as who they play. UCLA can lose to anyone on the road and will beat most teams at home. Another bonus of being at home is that newspapers bother to send reporters to the game.
OC Register's Ryan Kartje has a rather silly article that declares the difference between the loss on the road to the Beavers and the win at home:
The difference this time? Those shots went in.
Of course, the Intern for the LA Times was able to ride his scooter over to the game this time and report. (He actually does a decent job, come on LA Times pay him to travel.) He gave a better reason, if a little broad, summed up in his headline UCLA Bruins continue to thrive with Tony Parker in lineup. Remember Tony missed the first game against OSU.
This time, with Parker in the lineup, UCLA dominated in a 75-59 victory Wednesday to improve to 13-1 at home, and afterward Parker couldn't stifle a mischievous grin.
In the five games since Parker has returned, the Bruins have won four times, matching their best span this season. And for Parker, a 48.5% free-throw shooter, the good news continued: He made seven of nine free throws against Oregon State.
Coach Tinkle elaborated on the Tony theme:
The Bruins dominated the boards, 41-23, including a 28-16 edge on the defensive glass.
"Their big fella Tony Parker beasted us in the post a little bit," Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle said. "Look at what they did to us on the glass. We weren't as tough as we needed to be."
Of course the Oregon papers pointed out that the game was not really that close after the midpoint in the first half and UCLA was in control against an Oregon team that stinks on the road.
All season the Beavers (16-8, 7-5 Pac-12) have tried to replicate the level of play that they do at Gill Coliseum - where they are 14-0 - on the road. In Los Angeles against UCLA (15-10, 7-5) the Beavers' offense could not keep pace with the hot shooting Bruins.
With just more than 11 minutes left in the first half, two free-throws from junior forward Jarmal Reid cut the Bruins lead to 20-17; the Bruins then dominated the rest of the half as they went on a 20-8 run to close out the first.
The second half, UCLA and Oregon State traded baskets and each time it appeared the Beavers got within striking distance of the Bruins, they would go on a mini-run to keep and extend the lead to as much as 19 points.
Before the season Chrissorr and I debated the ex-factor. While a case can be made for Isaac Hamilton, the key may be Tony Parker who by his very presence changes the game.
But on Wednesday, the opportunities were there from 3-point range, and with most of them falling early, UCLA had little need to force the ball inside before building a comfortable lead. Bryce Alford hit five of nine attempts from outside, finishing with a team-high 22 points. Isaac Hamilton added three from long range, finishing with 16 points.
The presence of junior center Tony Parker undoubtedly helped multiply those opportunities on the perimeter. Parker missed the last meeting in Corvallis because of back spasms, and UCLA collapsed without him. On Wednesday, he drew defenders inside, and when Oregon State (16-8, 7-5) sagged off of him, in hopes of slowing the Bruins from 3, Parker took dump-offs and looked for contact inside. He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
"It opens up it when you have someone like Tony inside," Alford said. "Even if he didn't get the ball, he was such a presence tonight that their zone got a little bit flatter."
So what does this win over an offensively challenged Oregon State team mean?
The team is hopeful it has peaked at the right time. On Tuesday, Steve Alford said the team hadn't talked about its NCAA tournament status, but Powell and Bryce Alford seemed to refute that. On Monday, Powell said, the team discussed its RPI ranking and scenarios for the rest of the season. Bryce Alford called every game from this point on a "playoff game," and said the Bruins know exactly where they stand in the conference.
Where they stand, with six regular-season games remaining, is on the bubble. This week, ESPN's Joe Lunardi projected UCLA as the second team left out of the NCAA tournament.
Good news is UCLA looks capable of winning every game here on out at home. WIll they be able to do enough in the Pac 12 Tournament and Arizona road trip?