Reporting from Corvallis, Ore. — The sights and sounds of relief were apparent for UCLA on Saturday.
There was Reeves Nelson's exclamation-point dunk with one second left, capping the 62-52 victory over Oregon State.
"It had been a frustrating game," Nelson said. "I guess I took it out on the rim."
There were the hoots and hollers in the locker room at Gill Coliseum afterward, an emotional pendulum swing from Thursday's long faces after the Bruins blew a 13-point first-half lead in an overtime loss to Oregon.
"This was a big relief coming back today," forward Nikola Dragovic said. "We were counting on winning against Oregon. We had the lead and lost. It hurt."
There was Coach Ben Howland's mathematical assessment on the by-the-numbers way the Bruins (10-11 overall, 5-4 in Pacific 10 Conference) can be successful the rest of the season.
"If you're going to be really competitive, you need to win all your home games. We've already lost two, and you need to split on the road," Howland said. "We got another split on the road, which is very hard in this league, and that's big."
However you frame it, there was no way to undersell the moment from the Bruins' perspective.
UCLA could be one game out of first place if California loses to Arizona today, just two days after slipping to within one game of last place. But that's the Pac-10 this season, and a reason the Bruins have hope.
"I have never seen this conference like this, certainly not since I've been here," guard Michael Roll said. "So we can move forward."
First the Bruins had to weather an annoying-like-your-little-brother Oregon State team.
The Beavers' 1-3-1 trapping zone forced 20 turnovers and had UCLA staring at a possible 0-for-Oregon swing.
From the start, this one was sloppy, with eight seconds of a rugby exhibition after the opening tip, ending with a re-jump after no one could gain possession.
"The way the game started, we could tell it was going to be an ugly game," said Nelson, who finished with a team-high 14 points and 12 rebounds. "We just had to grind it out."
The Bruins had more turnovers (12) than field goals (eight) in the first half and the pratfalls continued, including a double forehead-slapper
Oregon State's Roeland Schaftenaar posted up, then tried a behind-the-back bounce pass that was intercepted UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt, who then bounced the ball to OSU's Calvin Haynes for layup for a 30-28 Beavers lead with 15 minutes left.
But from that point on, the Bruins were anything but punch lines. They went on a 16-5 run and built a 55-40 lead with 1:40 left, then survived as Oregon State scrambled at the finish.
The Bruins did it with hot shooting, making 65.7% from the field (23 of 35).
They shot 75% in the second half.
Nelson made seven of eight shots.
Everyone who played shot at least 50% from the field.
"They like to milk the clock and use their defense to try to speed you up," guard Malcolm Lee said. "We were patient and attacked the middle. That got us easy buckets."
Nothing was easy offensively for Oregon State (9-12, 3-6), as the Bruins continued to be zone fanatics.
The Beavers shot 37% for the game against the 2-3 zone defense.
UCLA is 3-1 since adopting the zone full time.
Said Nelson: "We just keep giving ourselves chances."