After a sub-par start, a lot of fans and reporters counted the UCLA Bruins out. People said they were too young, too immature. They didn’t have enough experience or enough heart to make a true run. At the moment, these critiques all seem a bit premature.
The Bruins have been making a lot of progress this year, beginning to flow and learn what it takes to play at the collegiate level. Each freshman is learning his part on the team, and working to carve out an even bigger role. On Thursday night, the Bruins stared adversity in the face and showed the NCAA they were a team to fear with an impressive win at #6 Arizona 84-73.
Shabazz Muhammad came out hot, hitting a barrage of jumpers and helping his team take a 15-3 lead after 6 minutes. But Arizona never let down. With the Wildcats clawing back, the Bruins could without a doubt feel the pressure. UCLA, however, seemed comfortable, keeping composure and holding on for the huge road win.
For as good as freshmen Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson have been thus far, Muhammad has been that much better. He has shown an ability to score in a variety of ways, and tonight was no different. He was scoring off the dribble, exploding to the basket. Then when given too much space, his smooth lefty jumper was too much to handle.
What the Bruins lack in experience and playing time has now been completely forgotten after 20 games into the season. They have gone from playing disgraceful defense to some of the best in the Pac-12. Tonight, they held Arizona to 38.4% from the field, including 20.8% from three.
Muhammad led the way for the Bruins with 23 points, giving ample reason to those calling for his contention for the Wooden Award. Jordan Adams added 15 points and Anderson did a little bit of everything, scoring 8 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and swiping 4 steals.
After the game, UCLA coach Ben Howland praised Muhammad for his ability to perform when the pressure is at its highest, saying, “When the lights are on and the cameras are on, he really comes to life.”
The Bruins are now in second place in the Pac-12, only a half a game behind #21 Oregon. In their only match-up scheduled this year, UCLA lost a disappointing game this past Saturday 76-67.
Forward Travis Wear did not play in the second half due to concussion like symptoms. He is considered day-to-day at the moment. His brother David Wear stepped up in his place, scoring 15 points.
Next up UCLA stays in Arizona, taking on Arizona State on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Arena.