Muhammad Leads UCLA To 10th Straight Victory
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The UCLA Bruins who came into this season young and inexperienced are finally melding together.
Shabazz Muhammad scored 21 points, fellow freshman Kyle Anderson added 17 and No. 24 UCLA defeated Oregon State 74-64 on Thursday night, the Bruins’ 10th consecutive victory.
“That’s not really a focus,” Anderson said about the streak. “We’ll let that all fall into itself. We can only focus on what we want to control.”
Travis Wear added 17 points for the Bruins (15-3, 5-0 Pac-12), who equaled their longest winning streak since the 2008-09 season. They have won 23 of the last 24 games played against Oregon State on their home court.
“We were really young coming into this season and it took time for these guys to adjust and for our team to understand what each other was about,” Wear said. “We understand defensive rotations a lot better and it’s showing in our stats.”
UCLA is 5-0 in the league for the first time since 2003-04, coach Ben Howland’s first season in Westwood.
“We’re a much better team than we were my first year,” he said. “It was a miracle we started 5-0 that year.”
That team promptly lost its next six in a row, then lost another six straight to end the season.
But Howland said he doesn’t talk to his team about streaks — win or lose — while keeping their focus on the next game.
Roberto Nelson scored 17 points and Joe Burton added 12 for the Beavers (10-7, 0-4). They lost their fourth straight and fifth in their last six.
“The effort was good, but the execution is what has to get better,” Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said. “These guys got used to winning and now they have lost four in a row. And they’re mad. That’s good. I want them to be mad. I want them to be mad enough to play better.”
The Beavers had the upper hand in the game’s opening minutes before the Bruins took over for good. Ahead by 11 points at halftime, UCLA ran off 11 straight points early in the second half to take a 48-28 lead.
“We came out ready, but when you play a team that has this many good players, you can’t let up or you get behind and it’s hard to come back, especially when you are on the road,” Robinson said.
Muhammad had a three-point play, Wear and Jordan Adams had baskets and Anderson scored four straight points during the run that put the Beavers in a double-digit deficit the rest of the game.
“I just let the game come to me,” Muhammad said. “My teammates gave me an opportunity to score. I think I played fast on the road, I’m not sure if it was jitters. I just came out here relaxed.”
Oregon State got to 58-48 during an 8-0 run capped by Nelson’s 3-pointer. But Muhammad answered with a 3-pointer to key a 7-0 spurt and extend UCLA’s lead to 65-48.
The Beavers were held under their 75.7-point scoring average. They are one of two Pac-12 teams with five players averaging double figures, but only three players reached that mark in the game.
The Beavers opened the game on a 12-7 run while UCLA struggled with turnovers and missed shots.
“They kind of woke us up. I don’t know that our guys understood that they were coming at us,” Howland said. “Our defense in the first half was particularly good. That’s been key for us.”
The Bruins settled down and outscored the Beavers 20-7 to take a 27-19 lead. Muhammad and Norman Powell hit consecutive 3-pointers, while Travis Wear had six points in the spurt.
Anderson and Muhammad combined to score UCLA’s final eight points of the first half, extending its lead to 37-26.
Oregon State forward Eric Moreland and guard Victor Robbins were suspended for the game after violating team rules. They will be available to play at Southern California on Saturday.
“They will be fresh and we will need those fresh bodies,” said Robinson, who will leave his team after Saturday’s game to fly to Washington, D.C., to attend the inauguration of his brother-in-law, President Barack Obama. He will be back in time for the Beavers’ home game against Washington on Wednesday.
Former UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes had his No. 52 jersey retired at halftime, with former Bruins stars Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mike Warren on hand. He helped lead the Bruins to NCAA championships in 1972 and 1973, and an 86-4 record in his three years under coach John Wooden. Wilkes had his jersey retired by the Los Angeles Lakers last month, and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last year.