It goes without saying this is a freshmen led team. The freshmen were spectacular in a 79-74 Overtime win over ASU. Three carried the team at different points of the game:
UCLA's offensive effort was bolstered by a monster performance from its three freshmen, as Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, and Jordan Adams combined to score 64 points on 21 of 42 shooting from the field. All three went on their own individual scoring tears throughout Wednesday's game, as Muhammad tallied individual runs of 5-0 and 8-0 in the first half against the Sun Devils, while Adams and Anderson both separately put together runs of eight points each in five minutes or less.
The often forgotten fourth freshman Tony Parker also chipped in:
Parker had only two points and a rebound, but the UCLA big man played a valuable 10 minutes in which he frustrated the Sun Devils' Jordan Bachynski with very physical play. Parker took the 7-foot-2 post player out of his game and Bachynski finished with 10 points and seven rebounds after torching UCLA for 22 and 15 last month in Tempe.
It is really hard to pick one of them to call the star. It was Shabazz early, Anderson in the middle and Adams late.
Adams scored six points in overtime, hitting a crucial layup when the Bruins were clinging to a one-point lead. Evan Gordon and Jonathan Gilling both missed 3-pointers, and Adams grabbed the defensive rebound, got fouled and made both free throws with 26 seconds left.
Regardless this was a much better team effort for this game, especially compared to the disaster of the first game:
Just a month ago, UCLA walked off the court in Tempe having been thoroughly exposed by Arizona State. Fresh off its biggest victory of the season at Arizona, the Bruins' 18-point loss to the Sun Devils was an unabashed disaster, setting off a string of three losses in five games for the Bruins.
But with just three games remaining in the Pac-12 slate when the two teams' met Wednesday, the stakes were decidedly higher, and the game looked unquestionably different.
After losing the rebounding battle by 20 rebounds the last time around, the Bruins significantly narrowed that gap on the boards this time around, collecting 41 rebounds to Arizona State's 42. And with a noticeably more motivated effort on both sides of the ball, it was UCLA that won when it counted most, downing the Sun Devils, 79-74, in overtime.
Stat of the game: The Bruins held Arizona State to 40.3 percent shooting, barely missing out on keeping a third consecutive opponent under 40 percent. Pretty impressive considering the Sun Devils shot 53.3 percent in the first half. They were 13-of-42 (30.9 percent) in the second half and overtime combined, and only 2-of-12 in OT.
What it means: The Bruins are pretty good at extracting revenge wins.
So what does this game mean in the bigger picture of the season? The LA Times has a strange article discussing being a top four seed in the PAC 12 tournament. Not sure why this is the focus. The Bruins need to win the conference (and do very well in the PAC 12 tournament) to stay out in the West Region in in the NCAA Tournament.
In a conference where parity seems to be the campaign slogan, there seems little extra advantage to finishing first. Being fourth or higher means you have to win three games in three nights instead of four in four to win the tournament.
Uh no. This is about going to the final four or further. The expectations for the season have never changed. Last night showed how good this recruiting class is and how far it could go with just a little help. Howland is still toast unless he delivers a final four.
UCLA's freshmen class came to Westwood surrounded by a cloud of heavy hype and high expectations. Wednesday night, Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Tony Parker showed everybody why.
Those four made big play after big play, did many of the little things that won't show up in a box score -- and plenty that will -- as the Bruins defeated Arizona State, 79-74, in overtime at Pauley Pavilion. The foursome combined for 66 points and 29 rebounds, showing why the group was tabbed as the nation's No. 1 recruiting class coming in to this season.
It was the best collective effort of the season for the freshman class, which has gone through some growing pains this season but appears to be maturing just as the season starts to get serious.
That's all great. But I do not think ASU is Indiana or Duke. UCLA needs to keep getting better to meet expectations and they are running out of time . . . for Coach Howland.