LOS ANGELES — A game after Shabazz Muhammad was criticized for his seemingly selfish behavior, the star freshman and his UCLA teammates showed plenty of generosity with each other.
Muhammad scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half, when UCLA took control on its way to routing Washington State 76-62 on Saturday night for the Bruins’ second straight victory overall and seventh in a row over the Cougars. They had 22 assists, with Muhammad getting two of his own.
“It really helped us out, and that’s how we got such a big margin early in the game,” he said about the Bruins sharing the ball. “It was great for us. That’s really what it’s all about, getting your teammates acclimated in the offense.”
Muhammad’s behavior at the end of UCLA’s 2-point win over Washington on Thursday night, when Larry Drew II hit the game-winning jumper at the buzzer, had people talking. He clapped and stomped his feet while calling for the ball in the closing seconds, in keeping with his oft-stated desire to always take the final shot. After Drew II won the game, the Bruins celebrated on the court while Muhammad walked past them.
He said the critics “blew it out of proportion. Everybody was on the floor. I didn’t want to kill Larry. I really congratulated him after the game,” Muhammad said, adding that such criticism comes with his status.
“That’s one thing you got to take being a top recruited player. You got to know and be smart and keep playing.”
Against the Cougars, the Bruins had balanced scoring and their defense held Washington State to 35 percent shooting in the first half.
Jordan Adams added 14 points, Kyle Anderson 12 and Travis Wear 11 while playing with strep throat for the Bruins (18-6, 8-3 Pac-12), who shot a season-high 62 percent from the field one game after hitting a season-low 33 percent against Washington. Their percentage was the team’s best since Feb. 28, 2010, when they shot 66 percent in a 71-51 win at Washington State.
“Our team has grown in terms of being smart offensively when you’re playing against a team that’s so patient and makes us play defense for so long,” coach Ben Howland said. “We got great looks against their zone.”
Brock Motum scored 17 points and Royce Woolridge added 16 for the Cougars (11-13, 2-9), who were coming off a four-point loss at Southern California. They have lost four in a row and nine of their last 11.
Washington State’s 19 turnovers were one off the team’s season high and tied the most by a UCLA opponent this season.
“We started out soft because we couldn’t get stops,” Motum said. “If we get stops in a row, that’s our plan to get into our offense and make our offense run more fluid because we can get out and run in transition.”
The Cougars hit five straight 3-pointers to start the game and didn’t score their first 2-point basket until 3:41 remained in the half. They led 9-7 before UCLA went on a 32-15 run to end the half leading 39-24. The Bruins shot 59 percent, had seven steals and outscored the Cougars 20-4 in the paint.
“You’ve got to be able to score in the paint too and I think their athleticism and their quickness and their length bothered us,” said Cougars coach Ken Bone, who is 0-7 against UCLA.
Muhammad’s highlight basket came on a one-handed dunk after Drew II found him alone on a fast break.
The Bruins didn’t have an extended scoring run in the second half, but they built a 20-point lead on a basket by Anderson.
“We came out with mindset of being unselfish and moving the ball around,” he said.
Trailing 67-47, Washington State put together its lone big run, outscoring UCLA 13-3 to trail 70-60. Dexter Kernich-Drew had seven points and Woolridge added four in a row in the spurt that ended when D.J. Shelton turned the ball over.
Drew II got fouled and made both free throws to launch a 6-0 run that ended the game for the Bruins.