OSU a little too close for comfort


Blair Angulo / Daily Bruin

CORVALLIS, Ore. “”mdash; Fans started filing out of Gill Coliseum on Saturday with UCLA leading big.

Rain was falling outside, so their choice to wander into those conditions said something about what kind of second half UCLA was having.

Freshman forward Reeves Nelson had just slammed home a dunk off a flashy assist from sophomore guard Malcolm Lee to put the Bruins ahead 14 points with under two minutes remaining.

Winning in such a way would have been too easy for this young UCLA squad, though.

The large number of fans that left would have never forgiven themselves had UCLA succumbed to Oregon State’s last-minute rally.

The Beavers trimmed the Bruins’ advantage to six with half a minute remaining, but freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt sank two clutch free throws to dash Oregon State’s hopes of a miraculous comeback. UCLA went on to defeat the Beavers 62-52 in front of 8,067 Saturday to earn a weekend split in Oregon.

“Lo and behold, I almost had a heart attack,” coach Ben Howland said. “I’m just glad we were able to pull that out.”

Oregon State went on a 12-4 run to cut the deficit to six points, with UCLA (10-11, 5-4 Pac-10) helping the cause by committing fouls on long-range jump shots.

“A win is a win,” said Nelson, who finished with a team-high 14 points and 12 rebounds for his first career double-double. “We obviously made it a little more interesting than it needed to be. We’re not the kind of team that can cruise. We just have to be pedal to the metal.”

Before the nearly disastrous finish, UCLA had pulled away with a 20-7 run after the teams were tied at 30-30 with more than 15 minutes remaining.

An alley-oop dunk from senior guard Michael Roll to Honeycutt gave the Bruins momentum, while senior forward Nikola Dragovic sealed the run with a fancy no-look pass to Lee, who dunked rather emphatically and looked over to UCLA’s bench for a response.

“They were trapping out high, so that’s when we were getting easy buckets,” Lee said.

Oregon State coach Craig Robinson called a time-out to gather his team. The Beavers clearly needed one.

After trailing by just six at the break, the Beavers shot an anemic 11-for-30 in the second half, including 3-for-16 on 3-pointers.

UCLA, though, kept Oregon State (9-12, 3-6) in it.

Fazed and sped up by Oregon State’s pressing 1-3-1 zone defense, UCLA committed 20 turnovers.

“The trap was really good, I don’t know why they took it off,” said Roll, who added 11 points in a game-high 39 minutes. “They were slowing us down. We had a lot of turnovers.”

UCLA valued the ball more as the game wore on and as a result, began to slow down. Players said a halftime adjustment helped.

“The weak part of the zone is in the middle, in the belly,” Lee said. “We just tried to get it in the middle and have the shooters stay in the corners and the slashers drive. That’s when we got dunks.”

Howland decided to give Lee a bigger role in the offense.

“We wanted to get our point guard in the middle and try to get us some catches,” Howland said. “Malcolm did a better job in the second half seeking the ball and attacking. He got more comfortable at it.”

Oregon State, meanwhile, wasn’t all that comfortable facing UCLA’s 2-3 zone. The Beavers turned the ball over 14 times.

“The way it started, you kind of knew it was going to be an ugly game,” Nelson said. “We were going to have to grind it out. I think we accepted that.”

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