The UCLA Bruins looked to bounce back after a stunning loss to Cal Poly and rising above rumors of coach Ben Howland’s job being in danger sooner than later.
The Bruins were now focused on their latest opponent in #7 Missouri and got back to their winning ways.
With previous losses to San Diego State and Georgetown, there more impressive wins against teams like Texas, Long Beach State, and Fresno State have yet to get them back into the Top 25 rankings.
The Bruins have been working extremely hard even practicing on Christmas night which didn’t allow some players to visit their families for the holidays. “They practiced really good the last three days. It’s an attitude. I’m really happy with how our guys kept fighting,” said coach Howland.
Highly recruited freshman Shabazz Muhammad saved the day hitting the winning three pointer with just a minute left in overtime to upset the Missouri Tigers 97-94, as they extended their winning streak to five games.
Shabazz finished with a career high 27 points, along with Travis Wear who finished with a career high 22 points. Jordan Adams also finished in double figures with 12 points, David Wear finished with 16 points, and Larry Drew II contributed with 10 assist.
“This is one of the biggest wins we could possibly get. We’re right back where we want to be to start Pac-12 play,” said Muhammad.
In the first half UCLA and Mizzou traded baskets which lead to a 47-47 tie going into halftime.
The Bruins decided to open the second half with a 16-6 run that allow them to lead Mizzou 63-54. However the Bruins lacked defense and Mizzou took advantage by hitting four three pointer to only trail 77-74. Coming out of the time out, Mizzou continued to dominate, as they went on a 12-0 run that gave them the 86-77. During the run Phil Pressey scored the first five points, Bell then stole the ball and dunked it. And Laurence Bowers capped it off with a three point play.
Ben Howland saw enough along with the 11,854 excited fans at Pauley Pavilion who witnessed their team playing lack luster defense.
The Bruins settled down, as Mizzou blew and eight point lead with less than four minutes left int he second half. Travis Wear hit a key basket. Later, Adams hit a key lay up that tied the game at 88. With 11 seconds left, the Bruins were forced to foul and Adams tackled Pressey with four seconds left. Pressey laid on a the ground for a couple of moments, before he raised up and made his way to the free throw line.
With four seconds left, the Bruins went their main star and Muhammad made sure he shinned brightly as he connected on a huge three pointer that gave the Bruins the 91-88 lead. Mizzou had one last chance as Brown tied the game at 91 to force overtime. That was Brown’s fourth three pointer on the night.
As Drew fought and grabbed the ball near the baseline, he quickly spotted Muhammad near the right side of the three point line. This gave Muhammad the opportunity to connect and make the the basket for the victory.
“I’m really comfortable. I like taking the big shots. Larry trusted me on the shot and I just hit it,” an elated Muhammad said.
Mizzou’s Phil Pressey attempted some last second heroics as he shot a three pointer with five second left and missed. Laurence Bowers grabbed the rebound and missed the three pointer right in front of his own bench.
UCLA held on for the upset over Mizzou 97-94.
Mizzou Phil Pressey finished with 19 points and 19 assist which is his career high. Laurence Bowers had 17 points, along with Jabari Brown who had 14 points.
“The Wear twins played great. Shabazz played great. They had a lot of confidence. I don’t think we executed our game plan. We shot ourselves in the foot with certain plays,” said Laurence Bowers.
The UCLA Bruins enter Pac-12 play this coming week as they face Allen Crabbe and the Cal Golden Bears, and the Stanford Cardinal at Pauley Pavilion.