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Bruins seek split on the road

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Given the unpredictable way in which the Pacific-10 Conference basketball season has unraveled, the battle for the postseason tournament seeding seems almost pointless.

UCLA is certainly in the hunt for the top seed -- even as one of five teams with a 4-4 conference record. The Bruins are also one of two teams that tout a conference-worst overall record of 9-11. The other is Oregon State, who sits at the bottom of the standings with a 3-5 mark in Pac-10 play.

The teams square up today at Gill Coliseum, with UCLA looking to bounce back from a tough overtime loss at Oregon and the Beavers looking to complete a sweep of the Los Angeles schools.

UCLA coach Ben Howland talked about the challenge Oregon State's zone defense presents:

The Bruins handled the Ducks' full-court press well on Thursday but tended to settle for long-range jump shots in half-court sets. The approach cost the Bruins a 13-point lead.

"When you're on the road, you've got to cease those opportunities," Howland said. "We just didn't."

Howland said Friday that UCLA guards need to do a better job of feeding the ball into their forwards -- freshman Reeves Nelson and senior James Keefe-- at the high post. Howland considers both Nelson and Keefe to be solid passers and capable of carving through zone defenses.

Despite Thursday's four-point loss at Oregon, Howland feels UCLA has bounced back nicely from its 21-point home loss to USC two weeks ago.

"We had two big wins last week and we had a chance to win [Thursday] night," Howland said. "You want to give yourself a chance on the road. We're not going to go into anybody's home court and blow them out. It's just not going to happen."

Said senior Nikola Dragovic: "We're 4-4 now, but I think it's good for this kind of team. Everyone is young and they can grow in these games. This is where you get experience."