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

Dec 29, 2012, 1:09 AM EDT

Missouri v UCLA Getty Images

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

  1. manchestermiracle - Dec 29, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    The Bruins finally looked good for sustained minutes, leading the Tigers for most of the first half (a couple of times by double digits). They still had their periods of mental lapses in letting those leads slip away, but those appear to be lessening. Howland has them playing better defense (nowhere to go but up in that regard) and the offense is starting to look somewhat coherent.

    Mizzou shot the ball well, particularly behind the 3-point arc as the Bruins were slow on rotating. Muhammad and Drew complimented each other well and the Wear bros. can certainly shoot the ball. The Tiger’s Phil Pressey is an assist machine and had 12 of his 19 in the first half. The previous Tiger assist mark in a game was 13. Lots of drive-and-kick assists because his shooters were nailing their outside attempts.

    ESPN had Mizzou with a #7 ranking on their graphics. This may or may not be the “signature win on their resume” (courtesy Bill Walton) the Bruins have been looking for, but “could this turn the season around?” At 9-3 coming in, with Muhammad playing into shape and all the freshmen on the team, UCLA wasn’t exactly on a precipice. This site has already called them the “most disappointing team,” but there’s a long ways to go yet. The true test of any longevity will be conference play and seeing if this team can hang with Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon.

  2. omniusprime - Dec 29, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    It sure is encouraging that UCLA beat #7 ranked Missouri, their best win in too many years. Terrance it’s too early to call this win the turnaround point in the season, it has that potential only if UCLA keeps on winning and winning the Pac-12. Then we can look back and say that the Missouri upset was the turning point of the season. If the Bruins start losing then all this win would be is a tease.

    Go Bruins!!!

  3. florida727 - Dec 29, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Terrence, for those that didn’t get to watch the game, how about letting us know what the heck the final score was? Geez. Sports Reporting 101, man. I guess 97-94, but I certainly don’t know for sure.

  4. astrozac - Dec 29, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Maybe they get turned around like Phil Pressey got turned around last night? With a little bit of help then, which they got for that no call last night..

  5. dcbear90 - Dec 29, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Terrible call at the end of the game. Pressey was helicoptered onto the ground which should have been a flagrant foul. UCLA only committed 2 fouls in over 19 minutes? Looked like some home cooking PAC12 officiating to me.

    Bottom line is Mizzou had a 9 point lead with 4 minutes left and let it slip away. Hopefully, they learn how to finish games after this.

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