Okay, let's start with the good (Link has an Interview). The player who played well and was the only one to shoot over 50%, Larry Drew II.
UCLA beat Washington 59-57 despite their third straight sub-40 percent shooting effort, as well as a 10-rebound deficit to the Huskies. Credit senior point guard Larry Drew, who made a key steal late and hit a buzzer-beater to break the Bruins' two-game losing streak.
A little more on the game winner:
By all accounts, had Washington (13-10, 5-5 Pac-12) not turned the ball over a season-high 19 times, UCLA (17-6, 7-3) probably wouldn't have had even a slim chance to win with a final shot.
So Drew II called his own number, waltzing down the court at a deceptively breakneck speed, his coach, Ben Howland, deciding not to use a timeout to set up a final play - instead, trusting his point guard to do what his team struggled all night to do: put the ball in the basket.
And in a game that seemed as though it would go down for its ugliness, it was the simplistic beauty of Drew's final play: the mad dash down the court, the crossover at the top of the key, and the fall-away jumper at the elbow to seal the victory for UCLA, 59-57, that would be the prevailing narrative after arguably the Bruins' ugliest victory of the season.
I think while that shot obviously won the game, it was the steal that put us in position. As Shabazz Muhammad fell and UCLA was playing 5 on 4, Larry Drew II made the second biggest play of the game:
Drew made another big play with 1:26 to play when he stole the ball and found Muhammad alone at the other end. Muhammad took the pass and a step toward the basket before finishing with a one-handed dunk, part of his own 5-0 run for the Bruins.
"We weren't shooting the ball well at all," Muhammad said. "Him stealing the ball and for him to step up and hit that big shot, he's our senior leader."
Now to the ugly. Never mind that was the rest of the game. Let's talk about the potential controversy.
Muhammad might look in the mirror to help the cause. Yes, he is a dynamic scorer, and his defensive effort is improving, but the rest of his stat line leaves a lot to be desired. He's averaging five rebounds a game (tied for third on the team), has only 13 steals (seventh on the team) and one blocked shot (10th on the team).
Yet the most glaring stat in his line is 17 assists in 20 games. Thursday was his eighth game with zero assists, and he's had only three games this season with more than one. Opponents are clearly planning to stop Muhammad, but he keeps firing away even over double-teams, and is averaging 18 shots a game over the past four games. Once the ball is in his hands, it's going up no matter how many of his teammates are open or how poor the shot selection is.
And Thursday he showed that when the ball isn't in his hands, he will pout. As Drew dribbled the ball during the 10 seconds before hitting the game winner, Muhammad curled up to the top of the key and adamantly clapped his hands and stomped his feet calling for the ball.
After Drew's shot went in, most UCLA players dog-piled on top, but Muhammad casually walked past the pile with the look of a lover scorned, not even bothering to glance at the proceedings.
Shabazz was asked about that. He gave a good answer which I tend to believe on the play. IMO it is good to have a guy who wants the last shot. But the bigger problem is the assist line and the defensive rebounds (Shabazz had a great 6 offense rebounds but only 2 on defense).
To Muhammad's credit, he was honest about calling for the final shot yet he also appeared genuinely happy for his teammate in the postgame press conference.
"Yeah, I wanted the ball," Muhammad told reporters with a smile. "But Larry is such an aggressive player. When the ball went up, I knew it was going to be good. Everyone was on him and attacking him. I was like, I know Larry is going to have something broken or he's going to have some scratches. I was going to wait until he got up to congratulate him."
So maybe there is a problem with team chemistry but I think not. Regardless there are some other more serious problems as it can be argued UW lost this game more than UCLA won. At half:
Ugly, ugly game so far as the Bruins and Huskies are tied at 28. Both teams are shooting below 40 percent, and both are coughing the ball up with incredible frequency. Washington's giveaways have been especially egregious - their 13 turnovers eclipsing their 11 field goals - but UCLA has just four assists to eight turnovers. Shabazz Muhammad has 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but only one of his teammates has made more than a single shot.
Needless to say, this is hardly the way the Pac-12 wanted to represent itself on ESPN - particularly following up Illinois upset of No. 1 Indiana.
The details of the game for the Bruins are just as bad:
Player of the game: Drew's game winner trumps Muhammad's point total. Drew had nine points on an efficient 4-of-7 shooting. The game winner was his third of the season, adding Washington to a list of victims that includes UC Irvine and Utah.
Stat of the game: The Bruins shot a season-low 33.3 percent (22-of-66) and were outrebounded 46-36, yet won the game. It is the third consecutive game the Bruins have shot below 40 percent, and the third consecutive game they have been outrebounded -- but the first of those three they have won.
What it means: The Bruins keep their Pac-12 title hopes alive, but their rebounding and shooting woes the past few games are a major concern.
Although Plaschke remains an idiot and screws up this insult, it is worth mentioning anyway:
They are still badly undermanned inside, with the Josh Smith defection increasingly becoming as giant as the player himself. They still don't play consistent team defense - just moments before Drew's decisive shot, the Huskies' C.J. Wilcox drove past two Bruins for an open layup to tie it.
Make no mistake, with Kyle Anderson unable to score and twins David and Travis Wear unable to
dominate and Tony Parker still unable to get off the bench, UCLA is still an underachieving team
with a coach on tenuous footing.
And this is a sad place for UCLA Basketball:
The biggest cheer of the night - before Drew's shot - was when the video screen showed Bruins football Coach Jim Mora. But, then, Mora has had a better week, landing a top-10 recruiting class.
The Bruins needed something positive. They got something, with the first words out of Coach Ben Howland's mouth after the game being, "Well, that was a huge win. "
Indeed. It kept the Bruins a game out of first place, though it won't be a video to send the NCAAselection committee.
"We have plenty of good wins on our resume," Muhammad said. "But we definitely need another win that is solid."
He added, "We got an ugly win. We'll take it."
It is better than a loss, but that is about it.