Down by eight with less than four minutes to play, UCLA men’s basketball looked on the verge of a complete collapse against an unimpressive Texas team.
Despite playing without intensity for much of the game, the Bruins found the motivation to step up in the final minutes against the Longhorns, eking out a 65-63 win on Saturday.
“We are glad to get the win on the road. It was great to have our team battle back, never quit nor never give up,” said coach Ben Howland.
“We kept battling and fighting to find a way to get the win.”
The team went on a 12-2 run to end the game, led by two consecutive “and one” buckets from freshman guard Jordan Adams, who had a team-high 18 points.
“Our comeback all came down to energy,” said Adams.
“Those buckets were big-time buckets. I wanted to get fired up and get the team fired up, those buckets accomplished that.”
Two turnovers by Texas and two offensive rebounds by UCLA led to nine consecutive Bruin points in the final two minutes of the game.
“I thought we gave the game away. We didn’t execute the things we wanted to,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes.
“I can’t tell you why certain guys didn’t know where they were supposed to go and I can’t tell you why we made some of the decisions that we made at the end of the game.”
Both teams were sloppy throughout the game. Texas’ inability to hit open shots bailed out the UCLA defense, which played primarily man-to-man but switched to zone on some possessions. The Longhorns were 4 for 20 from the three-point range.
“We need to continue to work on our defense,” Howland said. “We have to work on our motion, not getting beat on penetration and simple basketball plays.”
Saturday’s uninspiring game was a far cry from what the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Showcase organizers must have originally envisioned.
The game was conceived before the season as a marquee matchup between two powerhouse basketball programs in a large capacity venue ““ Houston’s Reliant Stadium..
Both teams, however, have struggled early in the season.
The capacity of Reliant Stadium is 71,500. Saturday’s listed attendance of 2,797 reflected the general lack of fan interest towards the two teams.
Whether fans were there to see it or not, however, the Bruins are content to be returning home with an important victory.
“It was a huge win,” said freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad.
“It was a sloppy game but we were able to buckle down to play defense, then our offense came into that and we got a great win we really needed.”
UCLA will play their next six games in Pauley Pavilion, including a Dec. 28 matchup against Missouri.
Next up is another team from the Lone Star state: Texas A&M Prairie View on Saturday.
Email Sheth at email@example.com.