UCLA beat Oregon State comfortably, 75-59, on Wednesday to keep Mission 3.0 alive (go 6-1 to get an NCAA bid). I say comfortably even though the Bruins led the whole way, and were never seriously threatened. That was a slow game that could have been mistaken for lethargy. The two slowest teams in the league got together, and guess what happened? Both teams had 60 possessions -- right at UCLA's average for the season, and two above Oregon State's average.
It was a weird game for me. Tony Parker and Kevon Looney did their jobs going for 15 points and 10 rebounds and 10-6 respectively. Though Bruins thoroughly dominated the boards, 41-23, Oregon State did as well as can be expected from them inside. On the other hand, Gary Payton II & co. completely shut down Norman Powell who had four points -- all in the second half after Payton took on Bryce Alford (their defense was about 75% zone).
It was weird because we won a game on three point shooting thanks to Bryce and Isaac Hamilton. The team shot 56% from three, 48% overall and throw in 70% from the line to boot! When Bryce leads the team in scoring with 22, you're trained to think it was probably a bad game, but this was a case where Isaac had 9 assists, and Bryce hit most of his three's off the ball. Oregon State gave them this, and the Bruins capitalized.
Gary Payton II was amazing again. He led all scorers with 24 points and added 5 rebounds (3 offensive). He's too big and athletic for Isaac, and Norman was shut down on both sides of the ball. To stop Payton, the first thing to do is take care of the ball because he's a steal and transition machine, and then you have to keep him off the boards. And still, he hit three 3's in the game.
I'm reflecting back on the Oregon State game to highlight the stark difference with Oregon. The Ducks beat USC on Wednesday, 80-75. No big deal, right? Except that Joseph Young scored 26, and took one third of their shots. Reminds you a bit about Askia Booker and the Colorado-USC game. Oregon has another road win against Arizona State. ASU shut Young down for a half, but he had 7 assists (on a team that doesn't usually have many assists), and Elgin Cook went off instead. ASU did a good defensive job, but they were cold on offense, their center fouled out in regulation, and the Ducks won 68-67 in OT.
I'm mostly worried about the likely track meet. Two months ago, I would have said, "great, let's have a track meet in Pauley." After the shellacking in Oregon, I'm not so confident. The Bruins are a slow team now. The safest bet would be to play inside-out against a very small Oregon team that is certainly not known for interior defense. On defense, I would slow Oregon down with the ¾ trap and the 3-2 zone which is designed to protect the perimeter. This will be interesting: will Joseph Young and company try to shoot over Looney? If I'm them, the way to beat this is to stand in the corner and hit the three from there.
Let's look at the stat comparison:
The Bruins look better everywhere except eFG% both on offense and defense. Oregon takes a lot of threes and shoots 36% from there. Their perimeter defense has been slightly more effective.
There are three big difference between this game, and the one at Oregon:
1) First and foremost, it is a home game for the Bruins.
2) Tony Parker is playing.
3) This is not a letdown or trap game. The Bruins have their mission, 3.0, and are coming off a good win. Stanford did their part by losing to Utah. Win this game, and we're back to a four-way tie for third. Then it's on to the next big game -- Arizona State in Tempe.
This one looks like a win for the Bruins.