UCLA will retire hall of famer Jamaal "Silk" Wilkes jersey Thursday night at halftime in a game that may come closest to the high scoring running days of Wilkes' Bruins and the Showtime Lakers. Why? The opponent that night at 6 pm on ESPNU are the Oregon State Beavers. Unlike the other bad teams in the PAC 12, Oregon State tries to out score teams and does not play defense, ranking dead last in scoring defense in the conference and Field Goal Percentage defense while UCLA is first in both scoring and field goal percentage. This is the best chance left on the schedule for UCLA to get the, in an era after Wilkes, Whopper zone of 100 points.
To make things even easier for UCLA, Oregon State's top rebounder and #2 in the conference, Eric Moreland, has been suspended for the game. Everything is lining up perfectly for UCLA to have an easy win in a high scoring game.
One shot after another clanked off the rim last weekend as UCLA freshman phenom Shabazz Muhammad tried frantically to get himself back into rhythm, back on the same scoring path that led him to score 20 or more points in four consecutive games in December.
. . .
"His offense is going to be fine," Howland said with a laugh Saturday. "I'm not worried about him at all offensively. That's the least of our worries."
But on Tuesday afternoon, Muhammad acknowledged he may have settled for too many jump shots, trying his hardest to get something going in his first hostile road tests.
. . . "I just think I settle for too many jump shots," Muhammad said. "Those away games, you're not used to the court and the rim might not be the same as Pauley. It's just not settling for jump shots and getting rebounds on the offensive and defensive ends to get my game going."
Travis Wear is playing his best basketball of the season.
It's not the first time he's ever had five straight double-digit scoring efforts - he did the same last January - but his 16.6 point average over that stretch has often come during UCLA dry spells. Against Utah last Thursday, he scored eight of his team's final 13 points. At Colorado less than two days later, the 6-foot-10 forward scored nine straight for the Bruins in the second half. . ..
His 57 percent shooting from the field will probably regress - he's at 51.1 for his career - but Wear should hit double-digit scoring again this Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. Oregon State ranks last in the Pac-12 in both scoring defense (69.4 points per game) and field-goal percentage defense (.419). Wear also expects to find open spots against the Beavers' zone defense.
"I'll just move to an open spot," he said. "With Larry (Drew II) being able to drive in and create, and Kyle (Anderson) being the same way, it just helps with getting easy shots."
On to Oregon State. Oregon State is lead by its backcourt of gunners. Both Roberto Nelson and 5'9" Ahmad Starks love to shoot. Both are very good from three (44% and 43%) and both shoot worse from 2. Moreland's absence will really hurt Oregon inside but UCLA guards will have to make sure they don't get lazy defending on the outside because Oregon State has the potential to comeback quickly.
Ironically the person who leads Oregon State in assists is the big man Joe Burton. Now that Josh Smith is out of the PAC 12 the 6'7" 300+ pound Burton may be the widest player in the PAC 12. Of course, the Senior Burton has historically had some big games against the Bruins and is not a conventional matchup for UCLA's bigs.
Another person who has historically given the Bruins some problems is Devon Collier. Collier is a solid inside player who may be the best shot blocker for either team in this game. However, it must be tough for Collier without Moreland or injured Angus Brandt, he will be asked to do a lot.
Freshman Jamal Reid is the last starter, forced to play because of the Moreland and Brandt situations. Quite frankly the 6'7" Reid is not ready, shooting 29% from the field but the Beavers really don't have a choice.
So in a nutshell UCLA is playing a team that does not play defense, likes to play relatively fast, and is without their best rebounder at home during a 9 game win streak. For a team that is weak on the inside defensively and likes to run, this is a dream matchup. The 6 pm start will likely cause some fans to arrive late but this is a game for those that like to see points should definitely get there on time for.