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Coach says Beaver game is no gimme

On College Hoops
by: Jaime Valdez, Oregon’s Maarty Leunen keeps UCLA’s Kevin Love close by during Thursday’s game. UCLA beat the Ducks 80-75.

The Pac-10 includes nine solid teams and Oregon State, which prompts the question:

Who feels sorry for Oregon?

Teams prepare to play the Ducks and Beavers, such as UCLA did last week, and really only need to strategize against Oregon. The Beavers simply don't have the talent level or consistent offense and shooting ability to be in many games at the end. Teams can beat them on talent and basic stuff.

Of course, UCLA coach Ben Howland was having nothing to do with such reasoning, that teams have an easier go in one game of the Oregon-Oregon State week.

'What do you mean, easier? Absolutely not,' he says, adding, 'They (the Beavers) could have beat us (Saturday).'

Really, coach? Coach-speak, no doubt, but Howland pushes his team to take everybody seriously. Still, Kevin Love admits that the Bruins overlooked the Beavers - UCLA was sloppy and lacking energy in the first half - before getting down to business in the second half of Saturday's 85-62 win. Love had 16 points and 21 rebounds and exhibited his wonderful outlet passes.

Born in Lebanon, Howland says he roots for the Beavers except for two games a year. 'Oregon State is going to get it going again,' he says. 'They're not that far away from beating people here (at Gill Coliseum). They have great tradition and history.'

• Not a bad homecoming for Lake Oswego's Love, who had 42 points and 39 rebounds combined against the Ducks and Beavs. 'I could have made a couple more free throws,' says Love, who hit only two of his first six tries Saturday.

• Consensus opinion has Love going to the NBA next season after helping the Bruins try to win the national championship. My opinion: he could use another year in college to work on his athleticism, but I would never begrudge the kid for going pro and starting to make money.

The 6-10 (stretching it) Love admits that he needs work on some areas, athletically.

'Definitely lateral quickness, and just getting in better condition,' he says. 'I'm still 19 years old and getting mature. To get better at the next level, I have to keep working on my pick-and-pop game … and athleticism, it's going to come. If I show I can keep getting better, I think I can be great at the next level.'

Howland says Love has underrated quickness, speed and hops. 'How about his ability to play?' the coach says.

• Oregon's 6-9 Maarty Leunen had 16 points and 10 rebounds in UCLA's 80-75 win, paltry numbers compared with Love's 26 and 18.

'He has gotten so much better, I can't even begin to explain,' Love says of Leunen. 'He came in as a scrawny freshman, put on bulk and started taking the ball to the hoop, and he can spot up.'

And Oregon's 6-6 Joevan Catron actually backed down on Love in the key for some baskets - not easy to do. 'He's really crafty,' Love says. 'He's going to be a good player.'

• The Ducks (12-8, 3-5), losers of four in a row, really need to win against Oregon State on Saturday (3 p.m., McArthur Court). Then a 6-3 finish (which is optimistic) would put them at 19-11 going into the Pac-10 tournament - and make them a borderline NCAA Tournament team.

The main issue continues to be point-guard play, with Tajuan Porter not shooting well and really miscast at the position, and freshman Kamyron Brown dealing with his grandmother's failing health last week and generally making rookie mistakes. Coach Ernie Kent's yo-yo with both might be confusing them, as well.

Depth has been another issue, since Kent really has trusted only seven guys to play. It's a good thing seniors Leunen and Malik Hairston are having outstanding seasons and Bryce Taylor is still pretty good.

• Jefferson High's Lathen Wallace, an OSU redshirt freshman, scored 11 points against USC and 18 against UCLA, hitting some 3-pointers and showing some scoring potential going to the rack. Lack of conditioning and effective defense had kept him off the floor with Jay John as coach. But interim coach Kevin Mouton has seen improvement in both areas and the Beavs need scoring -especially with Marcel Jones in a serious senior funk and the Beavers being overall poor shooters.

'I'm starting over,' Wallace says, of the post-John era. 'I've always been a good shooter and scorer, and I've never had problems with confidence. It's just the opportunity, that's all I needed.'