After two defeats to ranked opponents and a surprising loss to Cal Poly that knocked them out of the Top 25, the UCLA Bruins are starting to find their way.
Highly touted freshman Shabazz Muhammad hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:01 left in overtime to help them upset No. 7 Missouri 97-94 on Friday night and extend their winning streak to five games.
”This is one of the biggest wins we could possibly get,” he said. ”We’re right back where we want to be to start Pac-12 play.”
Travis Wear, who finished with a career-high 22 points, added a jumper with 12 seconds remaining to close out the Bruins’ first win over a top-10 nonconference opponent since 2007.
”I wanted to put it all together this game,” he said. ”Throughout the season so far, I haven’t played particularly well. I tried to go out and bring energy.”
Muhammad tied his career high with 27 points, David Wear scored 16, Jordan Adams had 12 and Larry Drew II added 12 assists for the Bruins (10-3). They had earlier losses to ranked Georgetown and San Diego State, while wins over Texas, Prairie View A&M, Long Beach State and Fresno State had failed to get them back into the Top 25.
The Bruins practiced on Christmas night, forcing three players to miss the holiday with their families.
”They practiced really good the last three days. It’s an attitude,” coach Ben Howland said. ”I’m really happy with how our guys kept fighting.”
Phil Pressey missed a 3-pointer with five seconds to go before Laurence Bowers grabbed the rebound and missed a 3-pointer in front of the Tigers’ bench as time expired.
”The play was for Earnest on a screen but Phil took the shot off a ball-screen action and he didn’t make it,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said.
Pressey finished with 19 points and a career-high 19 of Missouri’s 21 assists, including all 12 of his team’s in the first half. Keion Bell and Bowers had 17 points each, Earnest Ross added 16 and Jabari Brown had 14 for the Tigers (10-2). They were playing their first true road game of the season but had a vocal group of fans among the 11,854 at Pauley Pavilion.
”The Wear twins played great. Shabazz played great. They had a lot of confidence,” Bowers said. ”I don’t think we executed our game plan. We shot ourselves in the foot with certain plays.”
Scrambling near the baseline, Drew found Muhammad on the right perimeter and hit him with the pass that led to the winning basket, his second 3-pointer of overtime.
”I’m really comfortable. I like taking the big shots,” Muhammad said. ”Larry trusted me on the shot and I just hit it.”
His first one gave the Bruins a 91-88 lead before Brown tied it with a 3-pointer, the Tigers’ season-high 12th of the game. He had four of those.
Ross was fouled with 45 seconds to go. He missed the first and made the second to draw the Tigers within one before Travis Wear’s last basket. The Tigers blew an eight-point lead with 4:04 to play in regulation.
”We made some really gambling plays and that really cost us,” Haith said. ”We need to learn how to finish a game out in the last three minutes.”
As the nation’s top rebounding team, the Tigers controlled the boards, 50-36, but they committed 17 turnovers that led to 36 points by the Bruins.
Adams’ layup tied the game at 88 with 11 seconds to go in regulation. With four fouls to give, the Bruins chose to use them up rather than allow Missouri to run an offensive set. Adams grabbed Pressey and flung him to the ground with four seconds left. Pressey stayed down briefly before getting up.
After a timeout, Brown’s jumper missed and Travis Wear came up with a block when Bell went for the offensive rebound as regulation expired.
The teams traded runs in the second half, with the Bruins ending on an 11-2 spurt to force overtime. Missouri preceded that burst with 12 straight points of its own to turn a three-point deficit into an 86-77 lead, its largest since midway through the opening half. Pressey scored the first five, Bell stole the ball and dunked on a fast break, and Bowers capped it with a three-point play.
After the score was tied 47-all at the break, the Bruins opened the second half on a 16-7 run to go up 63-54. Missouri fought back from the perimeter, hitting four 3-pointers to close to 77-74.
The Bruins’ hadn’t beaten such a highly ranked nonconference opponent since Nov. 20, 2007, when they defeated No. 10 Michigan State.
The game was another thrilling chapter in the teams’ history. The Bruins beat the Tigers 75-74 in the second round of the 1995 NCAA tournament when Tyus Edney banked in the winning shot at the buzzer after a full-court dash with 4.8 seconds to play. UCLA went on to win its record 11th national championship. Edney is now the school’s director of basketball operations.