The third annual “WHITEOUT” at the McKale Center, a national TV audience, and the No. 6 team in the country were supposed to provide a stage way too grand for Ben Howland’s young Bruins.
Instead it was the home team, Arizona, with a bit of stage fright that proved to be too much to overcome as UCLA (16-4, 6-1 Pac-12) handed Arizona (16-2, 4-2 Pac-12) its first home loss of the season, 84-73.
In addition to playing in front of the most hostile environment they’ve faced all season, there were also, reportedly, more than 20 NBA scouts and executives on hand to take in the game and UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad did what he could to prove his worth.
Unlike in previous conference road games where Muhammad shot poorly from the field, going a combined 9-of-29 at Utah and Colorado, he left no doubt who the best player on the floor was.
When it looked like it could be a slow start for the Bruins, picking up two team fouls within the first 22 seconds on the game, and the Wildcats appearing to be pumped in front of the home crowd, it was Muhammad who answered with a spot up three pointer to give UCLA a 3-1 lead early. It proved to be a sign of things to come.
“That first shot was really a good confidence builder for me,” Muhammad told FOX Sports Radio.
Arizona’s confidence, on the other hand, took a nose dive as they dug themselves a hole after repeatedly missing layups and making just one of their first eight shots.
Muhammad scored seven of the team’s first 15 points before being taken out of the game at the 14:00 mark with the Bruins storming out to a 21-9 lead.
The Wildcats like to play fast but head coach Sean Miller acknowledged his team was surprised by the pace at which the Bruins like to play, which caught Arizona off guard to start.
Muhammad had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half.
The Bruins blitzed Arizona, shooting 56 percent from the field in the first half. The Wildcats made only 31 percent of their shots in the game’s first 20 minutes as UCLA took a 40-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“The defensive intensity, that’s the main thing that we came in and was really practicing all week,” Muhammad said. “That was the main priority for us and we locked down.”
The Bruins were dealt a huge blow to start the second half with forward Travis Wear being declared out for the remainder of the game with concussion-like symptoms.
Wear left the game in the first half and was taken back to the locker room. He returned to the game but at halftime it was determined he no longer would be able to play.
Meanwhile, Muhammad and the Bruins continued to raise their level of play.
Tony Parker scored all six of his points in the second half. He also added three rebounds in ten minutes of action, which are all his highest totals for a conference game.
UCLA took a 55-41 lead on a Muhammad jumper with just over 13 minutes to play.
Arizona responded with a 10-0 run to get within four points of the Bruins, 55-51.
The Bruins lead was five, 63-58, with just under six minutes to play when Muhammad went on a 5-0 run of his own to push the lead back to double digits.
Despite the atmosphere and the pressure of facing a top-10 team on the road, the Bruins never fell prey to the moment.
“Coming in here and facing this crowd was really hard,” said Muhammad, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “(You look) in this crowd and seeing all white, I mean, it’s so hard to shoot in here. The atmosphere was phenomenal.
“We went out here and gave it our all.”
David Wear finished with 15 points and eight rebounds off of the bench. 11 of those points came in the second half with his brother sidelined. Jordan Adams had 15 points as well.
UCLA won the rebounding battle 45-44 against the team that entered the game fifth in the country in rebounding margin.
It’s the second time this season Howland’s Bruins have defeated a top-10 team and for the Bruins it’s their first win at Arizona since March 2, 2008.