UCLA Bruins continue to thrive with Tony Parker in lineup

Bryce Alford leads Bruins to victory over Oregon State, 75-59

The first time UCLA played Oregon State this season, center Tony Parker watched the 11-point loss at home, where, he said, "I threw a lot of shoes and stuff at the TV."

Parker had been hobbled by back spasms, and without him, the Beavers' zone stifled UCLA's offense and prevented entry passes inside. It was as though, Parker said, "the zone shocked them."

This time, with Parker in the lineup, UCLA dominated in a 75-59 victory Wednesday to improve to 13-1 at home, and afterward Parker couldn't stifle a mischievous grin.

In the five games since Parker has returned, the Bruins have won four times, matching their best span this season. And for Parker, a 48.5% free-throw shooter, the good news continued: He made seven of nine free throws against Oregon State.

Parker even declared that he has outshot point guard Bryce Alford in practice.

"It's like a Steph Curry-Klay Thompson thing we've got going on right now," Parker said, referring to the Golden State Warriors' skilled shooters. He struggled to keep a straight face.

"I'm a mixture of both," he said.

It was, perhaps, an overstatement, but Alford did a strong impersonation Wednesday. He shot six of 10 — all but one were three-pointers — and scored 22 points. Parker scored 15 points to go with 10 rebounds.

The victory boosted the Bruins (15-10 overall, 7-5 in Pac-12 Conference) to a fifth-place tie with the Beavers (16-8, 7-5) in the conference. The teams are one game behind a tie for third and two games behind conference leaders Arizona and Utah.

The Bruins started the game with four three-pointers in a row, and made their first five shots overall. They never trailed. In the second half, UCLA extended the lead to as many as 20 points even though its longest scoring run was six points.

Recently, Norman Powell has powered a struggling offense, but against the Beavers, he scored only four points. But he was the only starter in single figures. Isaac Hamilton helped with a season-high nine assists.

"For him to have a little bit of an off night and we still win the way we won, that's encouraging," Coach Steve Alford said.

The Bruins haven't been able to maintain much momentum this season, but they avoided losing consecutive games for the first time this season.

The team is hopeful it has peaked at the right time. On Tuesday, Steve Alford said the team hadn't talked about its NCAA tournament status, but Powell and Bryce Alford seemed to refute that. On Monday, Powell said, the team discussed its RPI ranking and scenarios for the rest of the season. Bryce Alford called every game from this point on a "playoff game," and said the Bruins know exactly where they stand in the conference.

Where they stand, with six regular-season games remaining, is on the bubble. This week, ESPN's Joe Lunardi projected UCLA as the second team left out of the NCAA tournament.

"There's a lot of teams bunched up still fighting for this thing," Steve Alford said. "So it's going to be a great finish."

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand

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