Shabazz Muhammad is starting to prove why he was rated so high out of high school and if I can say it one word it is he is a "competitor." This time I don't mind excerpting Peter "talking points" Yoon over at ESPN with his article on Shabazz Muhammad answering Howland challenges:
That performance came a day after coach Ben Howland said Muhammad needed to improve in rebounding, especially on the defensive end. Muhammad had a season-high seven defensive rebounds Saturday despite matching up against Stanford's Josh Huestis, who is among the top rebounders in the conference. . . .
"I try to answer," Muhammad said about getting challenged. "I'm such a competitive person with anything, and tonight I thought I did a really good job getting seven defensive rebounds."
. . .
Because of those skills, Muhammad has been projected as a one-and-done college player who will be a lottery pick in this year's NBA draft. But to succeed at the next level, Muhammad realizes he needs to become a more complete player.
He said he came to UCLA to play for Howland for that reason ... and that's exactly what is happening. He acknowledges he never had to work hard to be better than everyone else at the high school level and that Howland has pushed him.
Shabazz's man went 3-11, and as always he had a good game on offense, despite a bad start. He also for the first time had a complete game. Shabazz was again the guy who put the dagger in with 17 second half points.
In what is becoming a bit of a pattern for the touted freshman, Muhammad started the game with a lackluster 1-of-4 shooting performance, making him 2 for 13 in first halves this week. Some of that, Howland said, was due to the opposing defenses focusing more of their energy on the slimmed-down star. . .
Then, the scoring came. Two minutes after the break, Muhammad scored seven straight points for the Bruins.
Perhaps no other play highlighted his second-half burst as one that he couldn't quite complete. Midway through the second half, the nation's No. 1 recruit streaked down the lane and was an inch or so short of a poster-quality dunk.
"I just let the game come to me," Muhammad said. "I don't want to rush. I thought we were getting off to a good start. - I was just trying to help our team out any way I can."
However, Jack Wang and Peter Yoon both were laughable in their stories saying Shabazz covered different players against Cal the previous game and both were wrong. While Shabazz deserves all the credit he is getting in these articles, as usual, the best article was written by Baxter Holmes. Holmes describes an alarming problem that is going to cost UCLA very soon, or as class of 66 puts it being "house cats."
UCLA also helped keep it interesting. It had a 15-point lead with 6 minutes 32 seconds left, but then committed eight turnovers and missed a slew of shots as that lead was whittled to five points.
"We started relaxing," Muhammad said after the Bruins finished with 14 turnovers, one more than they had in their previous two games combined.
A killer instinct, it seems, is one key aspect this UCLA team is lacking.
But the Bruins were able to hang on for what could only be called an ugly win.
How ugly? Well if I want to be nice I can say Stanford also lost to Missouri by 8 but really this story sums up Stanford (emphasis mine):
Randle scored 11 of his 17 points in the final 1:17 of the game. Junior Dwight Powell had 17 points and 11 rebounds, but did not score in the final 8 1/2 minutes. John Gage added 10 points.
Stanford shot 34.4 percent, missing repeatedly from point-blank range. Early in the second half, Randle actually shot an airball on a layup try. . . .
UCLA led 30-22 after a first half that featured horrid shooting by both teams.
The Bruins converted 36 percent (9 for 25) while the Cardinal made just 26.9 percent (7 for 26). Stanford missed at least six layups or putbacks in the half.
Not sure I completely agree but we have won seven in a row so I will close with this from the Orange County Register. Why? Well because maybe it is like the "fools gold" of the Wears leading us. The Wears were great to start the game but faded, in Travis' case maybe from too many minutes. This team has played six in a row at home and has yet to play an official road game (four neutral site games). We won't keep winning this way and we need to both start and finish better. Below details a bit of that starting problem.
the Bruins were led, unexpectedly, by 15 consecutive points from Travis and David Wear to open the game, as it wasn't until 7:08 remained in the first half that any Bruin other than the Wears got anything to drop from the field. It's the kind of start that isn't quite in the wheelhouse of a young team that has relied a great deal so far on scoring a lot of points, not on defense - even if that trend seems to be changing.
"It's very difficult," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "The way they played, they were very physical with us early. It was intense."
"Just because you don't start out fast," Howland said after the game, "it's how you finish the game that counts."
And for Muhammad and the Bruins, the finish - however ugly the game might have began - is certainly all that mattered.
Actually on second thought Ben I agree with a slightly different take. It is not the fact you are tied for first in the PAC 12 or won seven in a row that matters. It is how our record is at the end of the season and where we finished that matters.