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The Pilots have just one little problem

Calling all 6-foot-10 or taller centers. You probably can play right away at the University of Portland.

Talk about a team missing a large piece of the puzzle. The Pilots rank last in the West Coast Conference in rebounding, giving up 10 more per game than they snare. San Diego outrebounded Portland 32-19 on Saturday, shot 73 percent in the second half behind 6-10 posts Nick Lewis and Jason Keep, and still beat the Pilots only 78-77.

'It's a credit to our kids, who are accepting our weaknesses and deficiencies and are still scrapping and competing,' says UP coach Michael Holton, whose team keeps flirting with the .500 mark (9-11, 2-4 WCC).

At times, Holton had Karl Aaker Ñ 'I'm 6-5 with shoes on' Ñ guarding the behemoth Keep. At other times, it was 6-7 Dustin Geddis. Ghislain Sema, the 6-7 Cameroon native, normally would be the team's center, but he hasn't fully recovered from an ankle injury. And while 6-8 Andreas Gahlmann hasn't been a bust, he doesn't play much, either.

No wonder Holton has been chasing big players from Seattle to Arizona.

The Pilots also rank last in the WCC in 3-point shooting and field-goal percentage. 'Our margin for victory is small,' Holton says.

Wait a year, two or three. Holton has freshmen gems in Donald Wilson and Eugene Jeter, both very good students, and an uptempo style, and his players buy into their roles. If the Pilots get a big man or two, they'll be knocking on the door to 18 to 20 wins.

Break up the Beavs

Oregon State (11-7, 4-5 Pacific-10 Conference) has its first four-game winning streak since 1992 after beating USC (ending a seven-game slide there) and UCLA (ending a 14-game slide there).

OSU scored 83 points in each game. The Beavers hit some outside shots, with Chris Stephens 5 of 6 on 3-pointers against USC and Jimmie Haywood 3 of 7 against UCLA. That took some heat off big men Philip Ricci and Brian Jackson.

Jackson has been tremendous. He had 26 points against USC and 18 against UCLA. Ricci had 26 points and 14 rebounds against UCLA.

The Beavs had only 12 turnovers in each game.

Suddenly, it doesn't seem too extreme to think that Oregon State can knock off visiting Stanford and Cal this week.

NOTES: Has there ever been better basketball played by Portland's small colleges? Lewis & Clark beat Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound last weekend, with Kristofer Speier and Colin Oriard continuing to put up monster numbers. Speier had 37 points against PLU and Oriard 33 against Puget Sound. A down year on Palatine Hill? Hardly. The Pioneers are 12-7 overall and 7-3 in the Northwest Conference.

Then you have the NAIA schools: Cascade, Concordia and Warner Pacific. First Cascade and then Warner Pacific spanked No. 1-ranked Oregon Tech: Matt Evers scored 26 and Clifford White 21 in Cascade's 84-67 win Friday, and Wesley Powers and Matt Segrin scored 15 each in Warner Pacific's 69-67 win Saturday. É The Cascade Conference standings entering the week: Oregon Tech 10-3, Cascade 8-4 (19-6 overall), Concordia 8-4 (15-7 overall), Albertson 8-5 and Warner Pacific 7-5 (18-8 overall). It isn't unrealistic to think that Portland could produce both teams in the NAIA tournament this year.