UCLA’S UPCOMING OPPONENTS:
Oregon State Beavers, Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, OR, Thursday, January 19, 7:30 p.m.
UCLA’s basketball team has a tough road trip this weekend in the state of Oregon, starting this Thursday with OSU’s Beavers.
Coached by Craig Robinson, who happens to be the brother of First Lady Michelle Obama (does that make him the First Brother-in-Law?), Oregon State, like most of the other Pac-12 teams, has been up-and-down, beating Texas and conference front runner California and going 10-2 in non-conference action, but then losing to Arizona State, a short-handed team that the Bruins blew out, in their last game.
Currently sitting at 11-7 overall but in next-to-last place in the Pac-12 at 1-5, these Beavers are dangerous due to the fact that they have the conference’s leading scorer, senior guard Jared Cunningham, who averages 17.6 points a game and has 54 assists.
Two other guards are averaging in double figures, Ahmad Starks at 13.7 points per game, and Roberto Nelson, who’s at 10.5 a contest coming off the bench. Devon Collier is formidable at forward with his 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds a game, and Joe Burton leads the team in rebounding at 6.2 a match.
Starks, Nelson, and particularly Cunningham, who scored a conference-high 37 points against Texas, will be a challenge for the Bruins’ guards, Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson and Tyler Lamb. If Ben Howland’s team is to win this game – putting aside their 1-5 conference mark – Oregon State’s guards need to be contained and whoever is guarding Cunningham must be effective in slowing him down.
Oregon Ducks, Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR, Saturday, January 21, 1:00 p.m.
Two days after UCLA tangles with the Beavers, they will be traveling about 100 miles south on I-5 to Eugene to face an Oregon Duck team that’s in the thick of the Pac-12 Conference race with a 4-2 record, 13-5 overall, with wins over Arizona and first-place Stanford (tied with Cal) among their triumphs.
And to add to that, they will be in one of the toughest places to play in the conference, Oregon’s year-old Matthew Knight Arena, which replaced MacArthur Court last season and whose fans are among the most rabid on the West Coast.
Guard Devoe Joseph and forward E.J. Singler, two upperclassmen, lead the Ducks in scoring at 14.9 and 12.6 points per game, respectively, with Singler’s 5.2 rebounds a contest likewise leading Oregon. Garrett Sim, a 6′ 2″ senior guard, is the other Duck in double figures with an 11.9 points per game average.
It is up to Joshua Smith, The Wear Twins, Travis and David, and the rest of the Bruins to keep their focus in front of the Ducks’ faithful, who will do much to rattle the team.
Though it will be difficult, with most people expecting a split, a sweep of these two schools on the road will establish UCLA as serious contenders in the Pac-12 once and for all, as it’s becoming clear that the winner of the conference will be the one who is the most successful away from their home venue.