A feisty Muhammad leads UCLA to Pac-12 title

The last time No. 23 UCLA played Washington, Shabazz Muhammad was the topic of national conversations for not jumping in the dog pile after Larry Drew II’s buzzer beater.

It’s not him. He’s not an emotional guy.

Saturday, however, with the chips on the line, in the form of a Pac-12 title, Muhammad was as animated as he’s ever been in a UCLA uniform in the Bruins’ 61-54 win at Washington (17-14, 9-9).
 
With Utah’s 10-point win over Oregon on Saturday, the Bruins (23-8, 13-5) claim the conference championship outright.

Leading the Bruins to the title on Saturday was Muhammad, who simply wanted it more.

The UCLA freshman was called for a foul away from the ball at the 6:01 mark. He took some exception to Washington center Aziz N’Diaye trying to separate the Bruins freshman from his teammate and pushed his arm away. As his teammate, Drew II, tried to calm him down, Muhammad wanted none of it, firing back at Drew II “I’m fine.”

He, indeed, was fine. He was in a zone in which the competitive juices for the ultra-competitive Muhammad were about to boil over. 

As the Bruins struggled in the second half, going through a 5:28 drought in which they were held without a field goal, it was Muhammad to lift them out of the slump muscling up a layup off of a feed from Drew II with 7:09 left in the game to pull the Bruins even, 47-47.

It was a stretch in which he made 10 of 11 points for the Bruins. He finished with a game-high 21 points, including 14 in the second half.

He missed a baseline jumper badly and ran to the other side of the basket to grab his own offensive rebound before any Husky defender to get to it. He was fouled on the way up and earned a trip to the foul line where he made one of two to get the Bruins within two, 50-48.

Nobody was safe in the path of Muhammad.

After he missed a layup on a fast break, his teammate Kyle Anderson, was there to clean it up, but not without some resistance from Muhammad.

They were both battling for the rebound and Anderson went up with the follow despite Muhammad trying to rake the ball away, not realizing it was his teammate he was battling with.

Muhammad was certainly locked in.

It took that type of focus and intensity from the Bruins freshman to snap the team’s eight-game losing skid in Seattle and pick up their first win at Washington since 2004.

Not to be out done, Drew II, similar to what he did in the first meeting this season, made a huge layup that provided the dagger, giving the Bruins a 59-54 lead with 32 seconds.

He also came up with a huge strip to dispel any hopes the Huskies had of trying to extend the game. It cemented a tremendous second half effort for the Bruins defensively, in which they forced 12 Washington turnovers and held them to 35 percent shooting.

The regular season title is the fourth for UCLA in the Howland era and the first since 2008.

As for Muhammad, he walked through the line and shook hands after the win, just like he’d done after any other game. He didn’t show any emotions.

It’s not him.