Missouri v UCLA

UCLA knocks off Missouri at home, could this turn the season around?


Freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad scored seven of his game-high 27 in overtime as UCLA took down No. 7 Missouri Friday night 97-94 at Pauley Pavilion.

Muhammad was clutch all night long and with a minute to go, Muhammad knocked down a 3-pointer to give UCLA a 95-93 lead, a lead they would not give back. Missouri would make it a one-possession game, however UCLA would respond from a pair of UNC transfers. Larry Drew, like he did on the Muhammad three, found Travis Wear inside as he hit a shot in the lane with 12 seconds to go to put the Bruins up 97-94.

Missouri had two looks to tie it and send it to a second overtime. Phil Pressey’s three was off the mark, Laurence Bowers grabbed the offensive board, but he couldn’t get a look at the rim.

Pressey stole the show, even in a loss, with 19 points and a career-high 19 assists.

With Pac-12 Conference play starting on Thursday for UCLA, did the Bruins become a team to be reckoned with on Friday night?

UCLA entered the season with a lot of hype based on the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class led by Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. But Muhammad was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, until he was reinstated and missed only the first three games. In that time, the Bruins struggled, including a home loss to Cal Poly. It only got uglier when Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb both elected to leave the program and transfer.

On Friday night, it was finally understood why so much hype was centered around Pauley Pavilion this season. Not only did Muhammad proved he is one of the top freshmen in the nation, he showed how clutch he was and how confident he can be in big game situations. In overtime, one of Muhammad’s threes, the ball was kicked around with several players on UCLA hesitate to put up a shot. Drew caught the ball on the baseline, drove inside, got in the paint and found Muhammad on the wing. The 6-foot-6 freshman calmly sank the 3-pointer, giving UCLA the lead.

Muhammad wasn’t the only freshman to have a big game for the Bruins. Jordan Adams, the forgotten member in the 2012 recruiting class heading into the season, made a nice jab step on Negus Webster-Chan, drove to the lane and forced the game into overtime with a lefty layup with 13 seconds to go in regulation.

Anderson has had some big games. The Wear brothers have been a strong presence inside, especially career-high 22 points. Drew has put his turnover problems at Chapel Hill behind him.

Looking back on the season, Friday night could be the turning point for Ben Howland and UCLA.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.