|Larry Drew II and Norman Powell celebrate UCLA's overtime win over Missouri (Getty Images)|
The jerseys still read UCLA on the front. The crowd still arrived dressed in blue and gold. And the students still celebrated big baskets with eight claps.
Aside from that, however, everything else about UCLA's 97-94 overtime victory over seventh-ranked Missouri on Friday was virtually unrecognizable from Ben Howland's heyday in Westwood just a few short years ago.
UCLA, which made three straight Final Fours from 2006 to 2008 with precise, structured offense and smothering man-to-man defense, now has a roster hardly capable of guarding five totem poles.
Instead the Bruins are compensating for their many defensive deficiencies by unleashing a free-flowing, fast-paced offense that exploits every opportunity to attack in transition.
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That unfamiliar formula is the one UCLA (10-3) unleashed on Missouri (10-2) to notch a season-changing win that could vault the Bruins back into the AP Top 25 Poll next week.
Shabazz Muhammad scored a game-high 27 points and Travis and David Wear combined for 38 points and 15 rebounds as the Bruins rallied from a nine-point deficit with four minutes to go in regulation thanks to 50.6 percent shooting as a team. Phil Pressey's dazzling 19-point, 19-assist performance helped Missouri pile up 47 first-half points and 86 points with four minutes to go in regulation, but UCLA answered every spurt with one of its own and delivered a stronger finishing kick.
The Tigers had a chance to win in regulation after Jordan Adams
tied the score at 88 with a layup, but coach Frank Haith instructed Pressey to inbound the ball with 4.8 seconds to go, eliminating any chance for his point guard to create off the dribble. Instead Jabari Brown missed a contested jumper and Keion Bell botched a difficult put-back attempt, enabling UCLA to force overtime and escape with a victory.
What UCLA's win unequivocally proved is Howland will have to divert from all that's comfortable for him this season if he's going to save his job.
Whereas Howland initially won by convincing defensive-minded, hard-working prospects to buy into his system, he hasn't had enough of that type of player in his program the past few years to make a defensive-oriented approach effective. The roster he assembled this year to revitalize a program that has missed the NCAA tournament two of the past three seasons is full of guys more comfortable delivering a key basket or assist than a defensive stop.
With deft-passing Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson
, the skilled but athletically limited Wear twins and a bevy of creative, slashing wings, UCLA has a team built to score in bunches. They're averaging 80.9 points per game and scoring 1.13 points per possession, numbers that could increase now that Muhammad has shed the excess weight he was carrying earlier in the season and regained his explosiveness.
At the same time, UCLA's defensive ceiling simply isn't very high.
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Howland teams often improve defensively over the course of the season, but this roster is limited with no viable rim protector in the paint and two freshmen, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams
, lacking sufficient lateral quickness to defend opposing wings. Going zone might be an option, but Howland has stubbornly returned to his trademark man-to-man the past few weeks after dabbling with zone earlier this month.
The question now facing the Bruins entering Pac-12 play is whether their offense can be potent enough to hide their defensive limitations and make them contenders. It remains to be seen what the answer is, but the win over Missouri was certainly an encouraging result.
UCLA ran every chance it got, made crisp, unselfish passes and finished brilliantly in transition. What's more, the Bruins looked like they were having fun doing it, remaining engaged on the bench and smiling more than any other game this season.
On a night during which so much about UCLA was unrecognizable, that may have been the most unfamiliar part.
UCLA men's basketball upsets No. 7 Missouri
Bruin defense counters Tigers for 97-94 victory in overtime
The Daily Bruin
They say that basketball is a game of runs.
Never was that more true than on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion when UCLA erased a nine-point deficit to force overtime and eventually beat Missouri, 97-94.
“I enjoy wins where we’re not down nine with 3:27 to go,” said UCLA coach Ben Howland, when asked whether he preferred up-tempo wins compared to slower ones. “I’m really pleased with how our team handled being down late.”
UCLA also went on a 15-0 run in the first half which was promptly countered by a 19-6 Missouri run. The second half saw more of the same as the Bruins went on a 12-4 run just after halftime before the Tigers countered with a 9-0 run of their own.
The last run, however, belonged to the Bruins. They held the Tigers to just one field goal in the overtime period. Freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad had seven of UCLA’s nine points in overtime.
“We believed in our defense,” said Muhammad, who tied a career high with 27 points. “We’re so offensively talented but we needed to buckle down and play defense and we did that.”
The win was the Bruins’ first over a ranked team this season – the Tigers came in at No. 7 – and their last before conference play begins next week.
“We’re right back where we want to be to start Pac-12 play,” Muhammad said.
Redshirt junior forwards Travis and David Wear turned in their best collective performance in UCLA uniforms, combining for 38 points. Travis’ 22-point output marked a career high.
“I wanted to put it all together in this game,” Travis said. “I haven’t played as well as I’m capable of this season. I tried to bring energy and take the shots that came to me.”
At the end of regulation, freshman guard Jordan Adams converted a driving layup to tie the game.
With fouls to give before free throws, Adams fouled Missouri guard Phil Pressey, a foul Missouri coach Frank Haith thought should have been classified as an intentional foul, which would have resulted in free throws for the Tigers.
“I thought that was good salesmanship by the little man,” he said. “I didn’t think it was anything more than a foul. He was trying to sell it. I thought we were in Europe for a minute there.”
Good actor or not, Pressey tied an SEC record with 19 of his team’s 21 assists and led the Tigers (10-2) in scoring with 19 points. Howland said the Bruins wanted to make Pressey beat them.
“That guy makes his teammates better,” Muhammad said of Pressey. “He’s going to be a really great player in the future.”
The Bruins (10-3) now have nearly a week off before hosting Cal on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.
Howland said they would use the time off to rehabilitate. Sophomore guard Norman Powell left Friday’s game with a sprained left ankle and Adams struggled with cramps late in the contest.
“We’re starting over,” Howland said. “It’s a new season on Thursday.”
December, 28, 2012
9:39 PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA captured its biggest win of the season with a thrilling 97-94 overtime victory over No. 7 Missouri on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion.
A quick breakdown:
How it happened: Shabazz Muhammad
scored seven of UCLA's nine points in overtime, including a 3-pointer with just less than a minute to play that gave the Bruins a 95-93 lead. After Earnest Ross
made one of two free throws for Missouri, Travis Wear
hit a turnaround jumper inside for a 97-94 lead. Missouri got off two tightly contested 3-pointers in desperation time, but neither was close.
UCLA trailed 86-77 with 5:34 to play in regulation but went on a 9-0 run to tie the score with 1:45 to play. A Laurence Bowers
dunk with 1:15 to play gave Missouri an 88-86 lead, but Jordan Adams
drove the lane and scored to tie it at 88. Missouri got off two shots in the final five seconds.
After a slow start on the offensive end for UCLA, the Bruins used a 15-0 run to take a 23-11 lead that served notice that they intended to give Missouri everything the Tigers could handle. Missouri kept coming back at UCLA, however, shooting 50 percent in the first half. Keion Bell
scored 11 consecutive Missouri points during one stretch, and Ross made consecutive 3-point baskets from the same corner to give Missouri the lead back at 44-41 with 3:48 left in the half.
UCLA went on another run and looked as if it would take a halftime lead, but Alex Oriakhi
grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back for a basket at the first-half buzzer, and the teams went to the break tied at 47-all.
Player of the game:
Missouri point guard Phil Pressey
set a single-game school record with 19 assists, besting the mark previously held by Stefhon Hannah and Melvin Booker, who each had 13 in a game. Pressey nearly broke the NCAA record of 22 assists. His 12 assists in the first half were as many as anyone had had against UCLA in a game over the past decade. He also had 19 points.
Stat of the game:
Where to start? It's unfathomable that UCLA won this game looking at the final stats. Missouri outrebounded UCLA 50-36, and the Tigers shot 47.5 percent and made 12 3-pointers. The best explanation? UCLA had only six turnovers to Missouri's 17.
What it means:
UCLA has finally arrived. The Bruins were projected as a top-10 type of team before the season with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation but hadn't shown any signs of being that team until Friday night. Muhammad, who had 27 points, arrived as a prime-time player with his overtime performance.
UCLA opens Pac-12 conference play against California on Thursday at 8 p.m. PT at Pauley Pavilion.
December, 28, 2012
11:20 PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- At long last, the UCLA Bruins
resembled the team everyone thought they would be.
The first six weeks of the season have brought nothing but big question marks for UCLA, with bad losses, ugly wins and unimpressive performances taking the luster off a team that had been pegged as a contender for a Final Four run after landing the nation’s top recruiting class.
A 97-94 overtime victory over No. 7 Missouri on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion should help calm the storm that has surrounded coach Ben Howland, who has found his way to the hot seat, and the Bruins, who before Friday seemed to be underachieving.
This was UCLA’s first victory over a ranked team and first victory of the season that would be considered respectable by the nation. That it came in a nationally televised game and in thrilling fashion means it will receive notice and should get the Bruins (10-3) back into the top 25, where they began the season.
“I think our play definitely answered a lot of those questions,” guard Kyle Anderson
said. “This is such a big win for us, and we can’t go back to those losses from before. We certainly showed the country what we have right now.”
Early on, the Bruins hadn’t shown the country much. They started with a good win over Indiana State but struggled against UC Irvine. Then came a loss to Georgetown, an ugly win over Georgia and a dreadful home loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith transferred, and it seemed the program was in shambles. The Bruins steadily improved and won four in a row, but critics pointed to a soft schedule. Friday’s win over Missouri (10-2) extended UCLA’s win streak to five and, more importantly, restored order.
“I think this is one of the biggest wins that we could possibly get,” said forward Shabazz Muhammad
, who scored seven of UCLA’s nine points in overtime. “They are a top-10 team, and you can tell they are a really good team. We’re right back where we wanted to be to start Pac-12 play.”
Much of that is because of Muhammad. The national high school player of the year last season, Muhammad came to UCLA as touted as any Bruins freshman in the past decade. His season has been mostly disappointing, however, as he started it on the bench, ineligible, and then struggled to work himself into game shape.
The past four games, he has scored 25, 21, 27 and 27 points, but Friday night on the national stage, he arrived as a prime-time player. He had a highlight-reel dunk in the second half when the game was tight, led a fast break and made a jump shot as UCLA erased a nine-point deficit in the final 4:04 of regulation, and then showed the killer instinct that all great scorers have during overtime.
Muhammad buried a 3-pointer for the first points of the extra period, then delivered the key blow with 1:01 to play when he took a pass from Larry Drew II
and launched a 3-pointer without hesitation. Nothing but net and a 95-93 UCLA lead.
“I like taking the big shots,” Muhammad said.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of UCLA’s performance, and the biggest indication that the team is maturing, is the way the Bruins handled the momentum shifts. There were plenty of them. The Bruins led by 10 midway through the first half, but Missouri came back to tie it at halftime.
The Bruins opened a 63-54 lead to start the second half, but Missouri turned the tables and took an 86-77 lead with 5:34 to play. The Bruins staged the type of rally to erase that deficit and erase any notion that this is the same old UCLA team that lost to Cal Poly on the same floor just more than a month ago.
“I’m really pleased with how our team handled being down late,” Howland said. “[The Tigers] were down three different times big and came back and took leads from us. It was great to see our team do it at the end and really fight their way to get an important victory.”
It’s important because it gives UCLA a quality win on its résumé, and that will come in handy come tournament selection time. It’s important because it keeps UCLA’s momentum going as the Bruins prepare to open Pac-12 play Thursday against California.
And it’s important because it gives UCLA some hope that this will not be yet another lost season.
“It gives us tons of confidence,” Anderson said. “We have a group of guys who are mentally tough. We never stopped believing we were a good team and we kept fighting every day, and that’s exactly what we did, and we showed it tonight.”
Shabazz Muhammad helps lift UCLA past No. 7 Missouri
The freshman forward makes a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:01 left in overtime of a 97-94 victory, the Bruins' fifth in a row.
By Diane Pucin
D' LA Times
11:32 PM PST, December 28, 2012
UCLA isn't going to win many games with just strong defense, no matter what Coach Ben Howland would prefer.
But they'll win some with the type of offense displayed Friday night.
The Bruins upset seventh-ranked Missouri, 97-94, in overtime and overcame a head-turning, stomach-scrambling performance by Tigers point guard Phil Pressey, who had 19 points and 19 assists.
With 12 seconds left in the game, Travis Wear hit a 10-foot jump shot to give the Bruins (10-3) their final advantage.
Freshman Shabazz Muhammad led the Bruins with 27 points, and his three-pointer with 1:01 left in the game put his team ahead for good, 95-93. Travis Wear had a career-high 22 points along with a team-high nine rebounds and his brother David Wear added 16 points and six rebounds.
This was a game full of momentum swings. UCLA had a 15-0 run in the first half yet the Bruins were only tied with Missouri, 47-47, at halftime.
And when Keion Bell nailed a three-pointer with 5:47 left in regulation to give the Tigers (10-2) an 83-77 lead, it seemed the Bruins would fall short.
But the Bruins tied the score at 86 with 1:45 left on a David Wear rebound and putback and again at 88 when freshman Jordan Adams worked for a layup with 11 seconds left in regulation.
“This is one of the biggest wins we could possibly get,” said Muhammad. “They are a top-10 team.”
Howland said the win rewarded a team of young players who stayed on campus and practiced on Christmas night. “This was an important win for us. I'm happy our guys kept fighting,” Howland said.
The Bruins had a 15-0 run in the first half to take a 23-11 lead but still wound up tied at halftime. It was 47-47 after Missouri's Alex Oriakhi had a buzzer-beating layup.
Missouri got back into the game early with the help of 11 straight points from Bell. Bell is from Los Angeles and is a transfer from Pepperdine. When he played for the Waves, Bell had 24- and 22-point games against the Bruins. He finished with 17 Friday.
“This Missouri team is fantastic,” said Howland, who doesn't often go for the overstatement. Howland also said the collective performance of the Wear twins was, “their best collective performance,” as Bruins.
Howland said that despite Pressey's impressive-looking final stat line, his team defended the point guard well.
“He took 22 shots,” Howland said. “That's what we wanted.”
Pressey made only eight of those shots.
The Bruins started slowly, missing 12 of their first 15 shots, but Missouri's 20-for-40 shooting after 20 minutes had Howland's defensive mind doing somersaults.
“We've got to get better defensively,” Howland said.
Missouri Coach Frank Haith lamented the lost leads in regulation. “We didn't execute very well,” he said. “We made some really gambling plays and that really cost us.'
Usually, I put the boxscore here but I couldn't capture the whole Yahoo!Sports boxscore off of my laptop. I will do it when I get home. Sorry about that.