It could be a long season for the UCLA basketball team. And if the Bruins' first two Pacific 10 games are any indication, it could be a long season for many teams in the conference.
After Oregon State beat UCLA, 54-49, at Pauley Pavilion Saturday, UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard gave credit to Oregon State Coach Ralph Miller and to the Beaver defense.
That's taking the positive approach.
Looking at this game through rose-colored glasses, the most positive conclusion is that the second half wasn't as bad as the first half.
And UCLA did manage to rally from a nine-point deficit to a position where forward Reggie Miller put up a desperation 40-foot shot with seven seconds left. Miller said he was hoping that one of the Bruins would be able to get the rebound and go for the three-point play.
Trailing, 52-49, the Bruins needed a drive through the lane or a closer shot that would draw the foul. Miller's plan was probably as good as any. As Hazzard says: "It's academic now."
The rebound didn't go to the Bruins; it went to the Beavers, who scored on a rare dunk off the fast break by guard Darryl Flowers.
Oregon State is not a run-and-dunk team. Oregon State is a deliberate team. The Beavers beat the Bruins before a crowd of 6,843 Saturday afternoon very deliberately.
Hazzard said: "It was a case of Walt Hazzard being outcoached by a smart old fox. Ralph Miller did a good job of preparing his team.
"They knew we didn't have much in the middle, and they shut off our outside game by setting up some trick defenses that confused our team (such as extending the defense to invite Miller and Montel Hatcher to try to pass it inside; lining up in what looks like a 1-2-2 zone but is actually man-to-man).
"We didn't do a good job of putting the ball in the basket. And we gave them too many second opportunities."
Neither team did a great job of putting the ball in the basket in the first half, with Oregon State shooting 28.6% from the floor and UCLA shooting 38.9%. For the game, Oregon State shot 42.3%, UCLA 44.4%.
The Bruins did manage to get a couple of more rebounds than the Beavers but only 8 of the Bruins' 33 rebounds were offensive rebounds.
Turnovers? UCLA had 16, Oregon State 11. And we're not necessarily talking about forced errors here.
There are basketball purists who will see the low score and assume that Oregon State forced UCLA into a strategic, patient, defensive contest. Sort of. Oregon State controlled the tempo and made the Bruins play the Beaver way, but the low score reflects futility as much as anything.
UCLA led at halftime, 19-18, after Miller sank an 18-footer with one second on the clock, drew the foul and made the free throw. It was the Bruins' first lead of the game.
Miller, who finished with 26 points, was the only Bruin to better his average.
For Oregon State, which is missing several players due to injuries and a couple of more due to academic ineligibility, relied mostly on 6-10 center Jose Ortiz, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Ortiz, a 22-year old senior from Puerto Rico, did not become eligible until Dec. 20.
So this Oregon State team really has not had much time to play together.
Down the stretch, when the Bruins were making their final run, the Beavers were taking themselves out of the game by traveling, throwing the ball out of bounds, throwing the ball to the Bruins--just, generally, playing very badly.
Until those final minutes, Oregon State had done a pretty good job of controlling the ball and using the clock. Even with a 45-second shot clock, it's possible to hold the ball and wait for fouls, and that strategy was working very well for Oregon State.
In one stretch--from 8:20 on the game clock down to 3:30--UCLA went scoreless. The Bruins missed two shots and committed three turnovers while Oregon State picked its spots to score six points.
Miller said: "I thought our young players played very well. We made a few mistakes at the end of the game by not taking time off the clock and not getting the ball to our good free-throw shooters. We played well, though, and it's a credit to our players to win two games here."
Oregon State beat USC in Los Angeles and has a Pac-10 record of 2-0 and an overall record of 6-4.
UCLA is 1-1 in the Pac-10 and 6-3 overall.
UCLA's score of 49 points Saturday against Oregon State is its lowest total at Pauley Pavilion since the 1968-'69 loss to USC (the Bruins' first loss at Pauley Pavilion). . . . Saturday's game was the last of eight straight home games for the Bruins, who will play at Washington Thursday and at Washington State next Saturday. . . .UCLA freshman guard Pooh Richardson has been a little bit off his game in the last two outings. Against Oregon State he played just 30 minutes, scored just two points (1 for 6 from the floor) and had just one assist. UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said: "He's a freshman. You can't expect him to be a world-beater every night."