UCLA’s opening of New Pauley lacks Shabazz

LOS ANGELES — UCLA brought out all of the bells and whistles for the debut of their shiny, renovated gymnasium.

The new Pauley Pavilion opened on Friday night with No. 13 UCLA taking on Indiana State. The Sycamores were the opponent on opening night by design. Indiana State was once coached by the late John R. Wooden.

Great Bruins players of the past were in attendance for the opener — Don MacLean, Reggie Miller, Ed O’Bannon, Baron Davis. Others on hand included Dijon Thompson and Cedric Bozeman.

Those that couldn’t be in attendance like Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison sent messages that were shown on the sparkling new video monitor.

They brought out Flea — yes, that Flea — to do the national anthem.

The 11 national championship banners hung from the rafters. Great Bruins of the past were a part of a record 13,513 congregation of loud and proud fans — thankful they no longer had to call the Sports Arena home — as UCLA rolled out the No. 1 recruiting class in the country to christen the new Pauley Pavilion.

“It was packed,” said David Wear. “We saw it. That, obviously, fired us up. The lights. The smoke. Everything. None of us were really expecting all of that so when we saw all of that, we were pretty amazed by it all. It’s exciting.”  

But there was one thing missing: the No. 1 player in that No. 1 class.

Shabazz Muhammad spent a stoic 40 minutes on the Bruins bench in a blue UCLA warmup suit just hours removed from learning the NCAA ruled him ineligible to compete in at least the Bruins season opening 86-59 win over Indiana State (0-1).

He was finally able to crack a smile with nearly three minutes remaining in the game and the Bruins well in control up 72-55 when the student section started chanting “Free Shabazz.”

They were about 37 minutes late to the party. Flea played the national anthem in a blue shirt in which he scripted “Free Shabazz.”

As the most talented freshman watched from the sidelines, perhaps the least heralded freshman made the biggest impact in the Bruins season opener.

Jordan Adams came off of the bench to score 21 points and was seven of 12 from the field in 22 minutes of action. He also chipped in seven rebounds.

“Jordan had a huge game,” said UCLA head coach Ben Howland. “He’s been playing like that since China.”

Kyle Anderson was one of two Bruins with a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The other was David Wear, who contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Larry Drew II made his debut for the Bruins and had a team-high five assists in 33 minutes despite suffering a dislocated finger on his right hand early in the second half.

UCLA (1-0) led by nine at the half, 36-27, but opened the second half with a 13-5 run and watched their lead grow to 17 points.

The Sycamores cut the lead to 63-52 with 7:26 left in the second half but never got any closer as the Bruins outscored them by 18 in the second half in front of an energized crowd that was loud nearly from start to finish.

It was unlike anything the team endured last season.

“It’s definitely a step up from the Sports Arena so we’re just thankful to be back here,” Wear said.

Will Muhammad be able to step onto the floor and enjoy the friendly confines of the new Pauley?

Howland says he was shocked to get the news from the NCAA and actually thought Muhammad would’ve been cleared to play in the opener. Muhammad was not made available for comment following Friday night’s game, but Howland described him as being “very disappointed” by the ruling.

The Bruins head coach says the team will remain “hopeful” the situation will be resolved while his teammates play without him.  

“It’s something that we’ll just have to fight through,” Anderson said. “I think it’s extremely frustrating for Shabazz. For him not to be able to get out there, especially on a night like this, where we’re opening up a new building.”
UCLA will return to the new Pauley on Tuesday to take on UC Irvine to begin the Legends Classic at 8:30 p.m.