CORVALLIS, Ore. Â””mdash; Oregon State came into Thursday’s game at Gill Coliseum having lost to UCLA 13 straight times. From the outset of Thursday’s game, it was clear the Beavers could play with the once-powerful Bruins.
Over the span of that 13-game win streak, UCLA went to three straight Final Fours, produced multiple first-round NBA draft picks and dominated the conference. Oregon State didn’t even sniff the NCAA Tournament.
Thursday, it was Oregon State who came into the game with the conference’s leading scorer, not to mention a strong home-court advantage. UCLA hung around for all of the first half and much of the second, trading the lead back and forth, but a decisive second-half run helped Oregon State beat UCLA for the first time since 2005, 87-84.
The Beavers (12-7, 2-5 Pac-12) opened the game on an 8-0 run which UCLA was able to quickly erase. As for the 14-4 run Oregon State mounted in the second half, that was the nail in the coffin.
Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham, the leading scorer in the conference, was held in check during the first half, scoring just five points, but it was his 3-pointer combined with a few nice defensive plays and an emphatic driving layup that helped put the Bruins (10-8, 3-3) away. He finished with 21 points, 10 of them coming off free throws.
“There were about three possessions there where we made bad decisions, got sped up and turned it over and it led to easy baskets for them,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We made mistakes because we were going faster than we’re used to doing and that’s what that defense does. We let the pressure get to us.”
The Beavers’ defense kept UCLA confused for most of the evening. So much so that at one point during the second half, Howland called back-to-back timeouts because the Bruins were unable to inbound the ball on the sideline.
“They were mixing up their defenses a lot and that’s something we have to adjust to,” said senior guard Lazeric Jones. “I feel like we did a better job at that in the second half than we did in the first half.”
UCLA turned the ball over 13 times, leading to 20 Oregon State points while Howland continued to burn timeouts. With 11:36 left to play, he was fresh out. The loss also cost Howland a chance at win No. 200 as the Bruins’ coach.
Oregon State was also able to keep sophomore center Joshua Smith off balance for the majority of the game. The Beavers threw a bevy of defenders at Smith to limit him to 10 points on the offensive end. Smith was a step slow on defense as well, choosing to hip check Oregon State forward Eric Moreland and send him to the line to extend the Beavers’ lead in the midst of their second-half run.
“Josh had a hard matchup defensively because he had to rotate to the perimeter,” Howland said. “He scored his 10 points and did a decent job there but I thought (redshirt sophomore center Anthony Stover) was the one guy that played good post defense.”
That the Beavers have long been the doormat of the Pac-12 was clear in the waning moments on Thursday.
Despite the final two minutes of play being nothing more than fouls and free throws, albeit a stretch in which UCLA was able to close Oregon State’s lead, Oregon State’s fans stayed till the end, exploding with cheers when the clock finally hit zero.
“This win could have really helped us and given us some momentum going into Saturday but this loss is on us,” senior guard Jerime Anderson said. “We had too many turnovers and too many defensive breakdowns. When you allow a team to get confident and get going, you saw what happened.”