UCLA's Muhammad feels at home in win over Oregon State

Sam Strong, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- All UCLA Shabazz Muhammad needed was a trip back home.
After scoring 20 points or more in five of six games, the freshman combined for just 20 points over two games on the Bruins' trip to Colorado and Utah last weekend.
On Thursday night, Muhammad -- the Bruins' leading scorer -- returned to form by leading UCLA with 21 points as the No. 24 Bruins cruised to their 10th consecutive victory, a 74-64 win over the Oregon State Beavers at Pauley Pavilion.
"I thought I was playing too fast on the road," Muhammad said. "Tonight, I just let the game come to me. My teammates gave me a chance to score. I just came out here and relaxed. We all played well."
Some wondered whether
Muhammad's confidence wavered after the trip to the mountains.
"He answered your question," coach Ben Howland said. "He's very confident. I was happy for him."
After a slow start in which Oregon State jumped out to a 12-7 lead, taking advantage of some porous Bruin defense, Howland called a timeout.
"It woke us up," said Howland, adding his team's first-half defense keyed both big runs. "I don't know that our guys understood they were coming at us like they did. We finally got some momentum and the lead in the first half."
Out of the timeout, UCLA buckled down on defense -- the Bruins blocked seven shots compared to just four for the Beavers -- and upped the tempo on its way to a 20-7 run, ultimately leading to an 11-point advantage at halftime. Seldom-used UCLA freshman Tony Parker had four straight points and a blocked shot during the run. Parker has yet to play more than 10 minutes in a conference game.
The second half belonged to UCLA (15-3, 5-0 Pac-12). It was the Bruins' turn to get off to a hot start as they opened the second half on a 13-2 run, eventually building a 20-point lead they would not relinquish.
UCLA has not opened the conference season 5-0 since the 2003-2004 season. Howland said he hasn't addressed the win streak with his team.
"That was actually a miracle that we started 5-0 that year," Howland said of his first season in Westwood. "(Our freshmen) were eight and nine years old when that happened. It's not relative to them at all. It means zilch.
"We don't care about the streak. They know what it is. We don't talk about losing streaks either. I don't need to do that."
Oregon State coach Craig Robinson turned to his bench in an attempt to provide a spark early in the second half before reinserting the starters. The Beavers (10-7, 0-4) then went on a 13-4 run to shave the lead back to 10.
"When the second team came in, they played evenly and that helped us get our footing, so that's the positive from this game," Robinson said. "I saw some good things there but there were too many bad things."
UCLA capitalized on 17 Oregon State turnovers, leading to 19 points. The Bruins turned it over 13 times.
Redshirt junior forward Travis Wear scored 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds for UCLA. Wear has scored in double figures in UCLA's last six games.
"He's just a really good player," Howland said of Wear. "Nobody on our team is surprised at all by how he's playing. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He's a four matching up with fives. There's no five that can guard him. He's too good a shooter and too skilled. He's got great matchups every night."
Freshman Kyle Anderson also added 17.
The Beavers were led by Roberto Nelson, who scored 17 points. Sharp-shooting Oregon State freshman Olaf Schaftenaar posted a career high for the Beavers with 10 points.
"Most of my misses tonight were close," Schaftenaar said. "I took good shots and my teammates got me good shots. I have to be more confident every time I shoot the ball."
Schaftenaar's previous career high was nine points against Montana State on Nov. 25.
NOTES: UCLA will host Oregon in a top-25 matchup Saturday while Oregon State travels across town to face USC. ... Thursday's game was Oregon State's first road game of the conference season. The Beavers lost three straight at home to open Pac-12 play (Oregon, Arizona State and Arizona). ... UCLA point guard Larry Drew II leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.89) as of Jan. 12. ... Former Bruin and NBA standout guard Jamaal Wilkes' No. 52 was retired at halftime. ... Former UCLA center Bill Walton's Pac-12 tour stopped in Westwood on Thursday. Walton spoke with several hundred students before the game.

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