- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- While freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams grab headlines for leading the team in scoring, and Kyle Anderson is getting notice for leading the team in rebounding, Travis Wear has turned his play up a notch the past four games and has been a key -- albeit under the radar -- contributor to UCLA's recent surge.
Wear, a 6-foor-10 junior forward, is averaging 15 points over the last four games and was instrumental down the stretch during UCLA's 57-53 victory at Utah on Thursday, when he scored 10 points in the second half and carried the team during a late cold stretch.
Wear is shooting 54.3 percent over the last four games and is the only UCLA player to reach double figures in each of the last four games. He had 22 points in UCLA's victory over Missouri and Saturday against Stanford, while most of UCLA's offense started slow, Wear scored the first seven UCLA points on 3-of-4 shooting.
"It's just confidence and just taking it when I have it," Wear said. "Not second guessing and just shooting the ball, really."
Wear's confidence had worn down before this recent run. In five games from Dec. 1-22, he averaged only 7.2 points on 41.6 percent shooting. It was quite a drop-off for a player who was second on the team with a 53.3 shooting percentage last season. He scored a season-low six points on 3-of-7 shooting against Fresno State and then refocused before the Missouri game, saying he came to practice that week determined to turn his season in the right direction.
"I don't think I was forcing anything, I think I was maybe second guessing my shots," he said. "My percentage has gone up a little bit and I think it comes from finding my shots within the offense as well. I know (point guard) Larry (Drew II) is looking for me and I think we're making the extra pass now which is just making it easier shots available."
Wear's effectiveness helps the UCLA offense because he is a post player with perimeter shooting range. He and his identical twin brother David are quite accurate from 18 feet and can even hit a 3-pointer now and then, which forces interior defenders to step out of the paint and opens up things inside for other players.
"Not a lot of fives and fours are able to contest outside shots so when we see Travis or David lingering around on the perimeter we just want to get it to them and let them knock down their shots," Anderson said. "It will make teams push up on us and it opens up our drive. It definitely spreads out the court more and makes the lane less congested."
8hKevin Gemmell and Erik McKinney