LOS ANGELES -- UCLA heads to Oregon State on Thursday night looking to keep alive its streak of three consecutive victories and its chances of winning the Pac-12 regular season title.
In order to do so, they will have to contain Jared Cunningham, the leading scorer in the conference at 17.6 points a game, and Ahmad Starks, who is 12th in the league with 13.7 points per game. In conference games, Cunningham and Starks are averaging 19 and 16.2 points per game, respectively, to rank first and fourth.
"This is going to be really challenging," said coach Ben Howland, whose team has won 13 consecutive games against Oregon State. "They have really good guards, I’m telling you. Starks and Cunningham are really good."
The Beavers (11-7, 1-5 Pac-12) have lost five out of six conference games, but are the only conference team to have defeated California and also had an overtime victory against Texas earlier this season. Oregon State is 8-2 at home this season.
They use a pressuring 1-3-1 trap defense and are fourth in the nation with 331 turnovers created. That should be an interesting contrast with UCLA, which is 10th in the nation in fewest turnovers per game at 10.9.
"They’re much improved and they can beat anybody in our league," Howland said. "Obviously they already beat Cal, who is one of the best teams in our conference so it’s going to be a real challenge, especially playing on their home floor. They play well up there."
Getting road victories is no easy task in the Pac-12. Road teams are 9-23 so far in conference play, with Oregon, at 3-1, the only team with more than one conference road victory.
UCLA won its first road game Sunday at USC, but was swept in the Bay Area the last time the Bruins got on a plane.
"It’s a tough road trip," Howland said. "Oregon State and Oregon are both good teams and it’s a quick turnaround because the games are Thursday night and Saturday afternoon. We’ve just got to build on what we’re doing."