BERKELEY, Calif. — Shabazz Muhammad heard his name called for a substitution and jogged to the visitor’s bench at California’s Haas Pavilion before untucking his jersey and tugging on his shorts. With just more than a minute remaining in UCLA’s 76-63 loss to Cal, he thought the nightmare was over.
That was before freshman guard Jordan Adams fouled out.
Muhammad readied his jersey and re-entered the game, forced to play out the final 22 seconds in front of the Golden Bears’ rabid student section, not to mention a national audience.
“We’re on ESPN2 and that’s just embarrassing,” said the freshman forward, who was welcomed to Berkeley with mocking posters and derogatory cheers.
UCLA played its worst opening half of the season, mustering just 22 points to trail by 25 at the break.
“It was just a horrible first half of basketball for us,” said coach Ben Howland. “We didn’t do anything right and they did everything right.”
The Golden Bears (15-9, 7-5 Pac-12) mounted a double-digit lead before 10 minutes had ticked off the clock, an advantage that would never shrink to fewer than 12 points.
“We were just playing catch-up the whole game,” Adams said.
According to Howland, such a style of play doesn’t do much to erase 28-point deficits.
“We kept taking quick shots and it kept avalanching further and further, and we kept digging the hole deeper and deeper,” Howland said.
For the 10th time in 12 conference games, UCLA was out-rebounded by its opponent. The Golden Bears pulled down 41 rebounds compared to the Bruins’ 33.
Muhammad said he did all he could but could not account for the ongoing problem.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I don’t know if guys just don’t want to get rebounds or what, but I’m trying my best to get as many rebounds as I can to help our team.”
Muhammad also suggested that the Bruins were “kind of relaxed” from the outset of the game after beating Cal by 14 at Pauley Pavilion just about a month ago.
“We just had no intensity at all in the first half,” he said.
Four of Cal’s starting five scored in double figures. Sophomore forward David Kravish and junior forward Richard Solomon combined for 35 points and 21 rebounds. UCLA is no stranger to getting abused on the interior as Arizona State’s front line combined for 45 points and 26 rebounds in a strikingly similar loss last month.
UCLA will look to peel itself off the mat and avoid its first conference sweep of the season when it faces Stanford on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“This is a must-win for us,” Muhammad said.
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