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