UCLA coach Ben Howland couldn’t hold back a wide grin as he praised his trio of freshman stars.
Jordan Adams scored 18 points, Shabazz Muhammad had 16 and Kyle Anderson 11 as UCLA closed the game on a 13-2 run to defeat Texas 65-63 Saturday.
"Everybody is out to get these guys because they’re highly touted and the No. 1 recruiting class in the country," Howland said. "This was a good experience for them to fight hard and come out with a win as we build some momentum, hopefully."
For the first time this season, the Bruins (6-3) were the more experienced team against Texas (5-4), which started three sophomores and two freshmen under coach Rick Barnes.
"Rick is dealing with the same things in terms of dealing with freshmen and the high expectations," Howland said. "So we’re happy to come away with this."
The Longhorns had an eight-point lead late in the game but made just 2 of 9 shots in the final six minutes.
"We gave the game away," Barnes said. "And I’m not taking anything away from UCLA because in the last three minutes, they won the game. They went down and made plays and we didn’t."
Adams converted a three-point play to tie the game at 61 with 1:15 remaining, and found Anderson in transition to put the Bruins up three points with 25 seconds left.
"Our comeback all came down to energy," Adams said. "Those buckets were big-time buckets. I wanted to get fired up and get the team fired up, and those buckets accomplished that."
Jonathan Holmes made a layup with 6 seconds left to pull the Longhorns within one point, but the Bruins held on for the win.
Adams made a free throw with 5 seconds remaining to put UCLA up two points, and Holmes air-balled a long 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Longhorns.
Houston-area native Cameron Ridley led Texas with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Javan Felix added 13 points, and Sheldon McClellan had 12.
The game was played at Reliant Stadium, home to the NFL’s Houston Texans, as part of a Texas-UCLA men’s and women’s doubleheader billed as the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Showcase. Despite a tight game and a wild finish, the nationally-televised game struggled to live up to its preseason hype between the now unranked teams, and was played in front of an announced crowd of 2,797.
The predominantly Texas-backing crowd and band showed support that echoed through the empty stadium. In 1968, the neighboring Astrodome played host to UCLA and the University of Houston in front of nearly 53,000—an event often called the "Game of the Century" for the way it changed the face of college basketball. Saturday’s game between unranked teams didn’t carry a fraction of the hype.
The game was tied 47-all when the Longhorns used a 12-4 run to take a 59-51 lead with 3:43 remaining. Galveston native Julien Lewis had nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers, during the spurt.
It was 61-53 when a layup by UCLA’s Larry Drew and back-to-back three-point plays by Adams knotted the score at 61.
"It was a huge win," Muhammad said. "It was a sloppy game, but we were able to buckle down to play defense, then our offense came through to give us a great win that we really needed."
UCLA hosts Prairie View A&M next Saturday, while Texas next hosts Texas State on Tuesday.
"We need to continue to work on our defense," Howland said. "Overall, this was a great win for our team, and a good one on the road against a very well-coached team like Texas."