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Joshua Smith leads UCLA past Oregon State, 62-57

The freshman center makes four free throws in the final 2 1/2 minutes after the Bruins squander an early 17-point lead.

January 13, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • UCLA forward Reeves Nelson embraces center Joshua Smith after he made two free throws to help seal a 62-57 victory over Oregon State on Thursday night in Corvallis, Ore.
UCLA forward Reeves Nelson embraces center Joshua Smith after he made two… (Don Ryan / Associated Press )

Reporting from Corvallis, Ore. — Mom and dad make everything better.

Joshua Smith played his first college game in front of his parents Thursday night at Gill Coliseum, and they had a calming effect for the UCLA freshman center at the end of a tumultuous day.

Smith made four free throws in the final 2 1/2 minutes to help the Bruins pull out a 62-57 victory over Oregon State on the same day he was reprimanded by the Pacific 10 Conference for critical comments about officiating earlier in the week.

Smith's parents made the 4 1/2-hour drive from the Seattle area to watch their son play.

"It's always good to have your mom and dad sitting behind the bench," said Smith, who finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

After Oregon State had wiped out a 17-point, second-half deficit to take a 57-55 lead on Roberto Nelson's three-pointer, Smith made two free throws with 2 minutes 24 seconds left to tie the score.

Then, after guard Lazeric Jones made a pull-up jumper with 39 seconds left to give the Bruins the lead, Smith made two more free throws to increase the cushion to 61-57.

"That was phenomenal, the way he stepped up and knocked down four huge free throws," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said of Smith, who was making only 55.6% of his free throws before the game.

Jones and Reeves Nelson scored 13 points apiece for the Bruins (10-6 overall, 2-2 Pac-10), who stretched their winning streak against the Beavers (7-8, 2-2) to 12 games.

Drama is usually lacking when these teams meet.

The Bruins had won their previous 11 games in the series by an average of 22 points and had not lost here since 2004.

It looked like more of the same when UCLA raced to an early 17-point lead and held the same advantage early in the second half. But Oregon State went on an 18-2 run in which the Beavers held the Bruins scoreless for nearly six minutes.

"They were just outhustling us," Jones said. "They wanted it more than we did."

Nelson finished with 13 points for Oregon State, which had 15 steals and forced 21 turnovers.

But the Beavers couldn't do anything about Smith at the foul line.

"I felt calm," Smith said. "I went up there and just did my regular routine."

Smith had received a public reprimand from the Pac-10 earlier in the day and spoke with Senior Associate Commissioner Gloria Nevarez, who told him the comments he had made about the officiating following UCLA's loss to USC on Sunday were unacceptable. Smith had called the referees "terrible" after fouling out.

"They said if I said something like that again I could be suspended," Smith said, "so I'm done with that."

Howland started forward Brendan Lane instead of Smith, but the coach said it was only to help Smith avoid foul trouble. Smith finished with four fouls in 23 minutes.

Smith said his mother, who made the 4 1/2 -hour drive from Seattle with his father, did her part to help distract Oregon State during the first half, making a noise when a Beavers player shot a free throw. "It was kind of funny," he said.

Howland did not find much humor in the way his team suffered another long second-half lull, shooting only 33.3% and making only one of seven three-point attempts. But in the end, disaster was averted.

"It's huge," he said. "I mean, could you imagine how we would feel right now if I was sitting here talking about the loss after being up 17? I hope we can look back at the end of the season and say this was a turning point. That would be great."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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