They say that basketball is a game of runs.
Never was that more true than on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion when UCLA erased a nine-point deficit to force overtime and eventually beat Missouri, 97-94.
“I enjoy wins where we’re not down nine with 3:27 to go,” said UCLA coach Ben Howland, when asked whether he preferred up-tempo wins compared to slower ones. “I’m really pleased with how our team handled being down late.”
UCLA also went on a 15-0 run in the first half which was promptly countered by a 19-6 Missouri run. The second half saw more of the same as the Bruins went on a 12-4 run just after halftime before the Tigers countered with a 9-0 run of their own.
The last run, however, belonged to the Bruins. They held the Tigers to just one field goal in the overtime period. Freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad had seven of UCLA’s nine points in overtime.
“We believed in our defense,” said Muhammad, who tied a career high with 27 points. “We’re so offensively talented but we needed to buckle down and play defense and we did that.”
The win was the Bruins’ first over a ranked team this season – the Tigers came in at No. 7 – and their last before conference play begins next week.
“We’re right back where we want to be to start Pac-12 play,” Muhammad said.
Redshirt junior forwards Travis and David Wear turned in their best collective performance in UCLAuniforms, combining for 38 points. Travis’ 22-point output marked a career high.
“I wanted to put it all together in this game,” Travis said. “I haven’t played as well as I’m capable of this season. I tried to bring energy and take the shots that came to me.”
At the end of regulation, freshman guard Jordan Adams converted a driving layup to tie the game. With fouls to give before free throws, Adams fouled Missouri guard Phil Pressey, a foul Missouri coach Frank Haith thought should have been classified as an intentional foul, which would have resulted in free throws for the Tigers.
“I thought that was good salesmanship by the little man,” he said. “I didn’t think it was anything more than a foul. He was trying to sell it. I thought we were in Europe for a minute there.”
Good actor or not, Pressey tied an SEC record with 19 of his team’s 21 assists and led the Tigers (10-2) in scoring with 19 points. Howland said the Bruins wanted to make Pressey beat them.
“That guy makes his teammates better,” Muhammad said of Pressey. “He’s going to be a really great player in the future.”
The Bruins (10-3) now have nearly a week off before hosting Cal on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. Howland said they would use the time off to rehabilitate. Sophomore guard Norman Powell left Friday’s game with a sprained left ankle and Adams struggled with cramps late in the contest.
“We’re starting over,” Howland said. “It’s a new season on Thursday.”