Shabazz Muhammad expects to be heckled while on the road, but says it will… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad expects the worst ... and relishes the thought.
Fans on the road are going to come after him. And let's not forget about those folks across town by the 110 Freeway.
"I love when fans talk junk," Muhammad said. "Those are the best wins because you can shut the fans up real fast by winning."
The Bruins play their first Pac-12 road games of the season at Utah on Thursday and at Colorado on Saturday. Their previous four games away from Westwood were on neutral courts.
The Bruins have four freshman who will be venturing into the conference hot spots nine times this season.
Muhammad was already bracing himself.
"The NCAA incident, that will come up, I know," said Muhammad, who missed the first three games waiting for the NCAA to clear him.
The Bruins (12-3 overall, 2-0 in conference play) have won seven consecutive games, including victories at home over California and Stanford to start conference play. Conference championships are won on the road.
UCLA had a 21-6 road record from 2006 to '08 and won the conference title each season. They were 11-16 the last three seasons.
"Everyone has great games on their home court, feeding off their crowd," guard Norman Powell said. "Being able to go on the road and win, that's what boosts you as a team."
Road records were the difference between being conference champions and tied for fifth place last season. Washington was 6-3 away from home and won the title. UCLA was 3-6 and finished fifth, three games behind the Huskies.
UCLA's returning players gave the team's four freshmen a travel primer this week.
"We told them to focus on the game and don't get into anything with the fans," junior forward Travis Wear said.
Even Coach Ben Howland chimed in.
"I told them that the crowd is going to yell nasty things at you; get used to it," Howland said.
The freshmen appear to have taken good notes.
"The crowds are going to harass you," freshman guard Jordan Adams said.
Freshman Kyle Anderson: "It's going to be hostile."
Actually, on this trip, UCLA veteran players have no idea what to expect.
The last time UCLA played at Utah the stock market crashed. The Bruins lost consecutive games in Salt Lake City in 1929. The only time UCLA went to Colorado was 1963 … and the Bruins lost.
The Utes and Buffaloes are coming off lost weekends in Arizona, though Utah (8-6, 0-2) rattled both Arizona State in a 55-54 overtime loss and No. 4 Arizona, which squeaked out a 60-57 victory.
What the Bruins do know about this trip is both games will be played in the thin mountain air. Howland said that shouldn't be an issue, though Wear said, "you can feel it."
But the rigors of traveling are a concern to Howland.
Freshman center Tony Parker has been bothered by back spasms to the point where he has sought non-medical treatments — acupuncture and yoga.
Howland said, "Tony is moving so much better, so much looser." But he said that the airplane rides "have affected him in the past. We have to make sure he's able to get up and move around every 20 minutes once we get in the air."
All part of the Pac-12 road experience.
The bright side? No trip to Eugene to play Oregon this season.
"I hear they're pretty bad there," Muhammad said. "So that's one thing to be happy about."
Jarred DuBois is Utah's leading scorer, averaging 13.2 points a game.
The 6-foot-3 guard played at Westchester High and spent three seasons at Loyola Marymount before transferring to Utah in May. He was immediately eligible because he graduated from Loyola Marymount and enrolled at Utah as a graduate student.
DuBois was named to the West Coast Conference's all-freshman team in 2008-09. He finished fourth in Loyola history with 148 three-pointers and ranks fifth all-time in free-throw percentage at .844.