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UCLA BASKETBALL

Beavers have turned it around

Oregon State isn't the same team it was at the beginning of the season.

March 04, 2009|David Wharton

Two months have passed since UCLA defeated Oregon State by 23 points in the Pacific 10 Conference opener at Corvallis.

The Beavers still play a Princeton-style offense with plenty of zone defense, but they arrive at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night a markedly different team.

"They are much more confident and sure of themselves," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

That confidence has translated into a startling turnaround. A team that went 0-18 in conference play last season, and was picked to finish last again this season, now has a 7-9 record, including a season sweep of Stanford and California.

"They've gotten better every single game," guard Jrue Holiday said, adding: "I didn't see it coming, but they're actually a good team."

Much of Oregon State's improvement can be traced to first-year Coach Craig Robinson, who played his college ball for Pete Carril at Princeton.

Keeping the middle of the floor open, the Beavers run their offense through Roeland Schaftenaar, a big man who ranks among the conference's guards in total assists and averages 3.6 a game.

They take their time, make lots of passes and look to backcut when opponents pressure on defense.

"You've just got to be real patient on defense," UCLA swingman Josh Shipp said. "They're going to run down the shot clock and wait for you to break down."

The Beavers average 60 points a game, led by Calvin Haynes at 15.5.

On defense, Oregon State shows a fair amount of 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone. The Bruins have struggled at times against the zone, though they had success attacking Oregon State in January.

UCLA needs a victory to remain in second place in the Pac-10, keep its hopes alive for a shared conference title and continue a push for a better seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Overload

The flood of items that fans send to John Wooden, asking for his autograph, has become too much for the aging former coach to handle, his family says.

Wooden was recently hospitalized with pneumonia. He was said to be recovering but his children worry about the workload of replying to so many fan requests.

"The amount of mail Dad receives on a weekly basis is just overwhelming, and that doesn't include items sent to the basketball office at UCLA," Nan Muehlhausen and Jim Wooden, his daughter and son, said in a joint statement.

"Dad would try to sign every item if he could, but the number of items he is receiving has increased greatly in the last few months and the family feels it is time to make this request," the statement continued. "We hope everyone understands and respects our request. Dad is 98 years old and we believe that signing his name for hours on end on a daily basis is not in his best interest."

Items that have already been sent will be returned to the senders, the family said.

Better and worse

The Bruins got good and bad news on the health front this week.

Forwards Nikola Dragovic and James Keefe have recovered from flu and back spasms. Both participated in practice.

But Tuesday, freshman guard Malcolm Lee sprained his left ankle and had to sit out. Lee, whose role has expanded recently because of his defensive play, was listed as probable for today's practice.

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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