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Bruins Become Road Kill

January 08, 1999|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The UCLA Bruins ventured to a hostile land for the first time all season Thursday night, only to find the biggest enemy was from home.

Themselves.

The Bruins, ranked No. 7 in the nation but hardly looking the part, were terrible on offense and impatient on defense down the stretch and lost to Oregon State, 65-63, before 7,232 at Gill Coliseum.

Many fans rushed the floor afterward in celebration.

UCLA's eight-game winning streak ended, and its youth was exposed again.

The Bruins took 81 shots--41 more than the winners--but rushed too many of them.

The result was a horrendous 28.4% success rate on a night that also included four-of-27 shooting on three-pointers and nine assists against 14 turnovers.

Team records are not kept to determine how bad that percentage is in Bruin history, so they will have to settle for bad enough.

JaRon Rush was three of 15, getting one basket on a rebound layin, another on a tipin, and another on a layup. He missed all seven three-point shots.

Dan Gadzuric made one of nine shots.

The two starting guards, Baron Davis and Earl Watson, were six of 19 and five of 17, respectively.

"It's pretty bad," Rush said. "A pretty bad shooting night. It was our first time really playing on the road, and I think it got to us tonight."

Or maybe the Bruins (10-3 overall, 2-1 in conference) would have looked miserable in any locale.

On defense too.

UCLA continuously fouled too quickly in the final minutes, swiping at the ball or making bad reaches in the backcourt and practically giving intentional fouls even when it trailed by only four or five points with more than a minute left.

And still Oregon State--which lost an exhibition to Athletes in Action and came in only 6-5 and 0-2--couldn't put the Bruins away.

The Beavers made only five of 12 free throws the final 2:15, and the three possessions that didn't end at the line ended with a turnover.

But the Bruins could get no closer than three, at 64-61 with 38 seconds remaining, until Rush's meaningless score at the buzzer made for the 65-63 final.

UCLA had played three consecutive games away from home around Thanksgiving, but those were neutral-site contests in the Puerto Rico Shootout. UCLA had played at the Pond of Anaheim in December.

That made Thursday a test on two fronts.

The Beavers and the surroundings.

"They just have to experience it," Watson said of the five freshmen, one year after he went through the same learning process. "I didn't know it was so hard to win in college basketball until I started traveling."

Said Coach Steve Lavin beforehand: "It will be great to see--or interesting to see--how our players respond to that kind of environment on the road."

The environment wasn't the problem.

Shooting horribly from the start, the Bruins had six points in the first nine minutes and 10 points in the opening 11.

The only thing close to an offense before halftime came because of the defense.

After Brandon Loyd's three-point shot cut the deficit to 18-13--Loyd's first appearance since Dec. 19 and his first basket since Dec. 26--Davis grabbed the ball from Oregon State's Deaundra Tanner off a double-team trap. Davis took that in.

About 90 seconds later, Ray Young, inserted in the starting lineup in place of Rico Hines, stole the ball from Sasa Petrovic and drove for a layup.

The Beavers called a 20-second timeout, supposedly to settle themselves.

But when play resumed, they committed another turnover, this time in the backcourt. It led to Davis' dunk. The Bruins had scored three consecutive baskets, bringing them within 20-19.

The comeback came even though they had converted eight of their first 30 shots, and partly because Oregon State at the same time was suffering through a stretch in which it went 5:35 without a field goal.

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