Shabazz dunks for the last time at Pauley - USA TODAY Sports
Thank you to Shabazz and Larry for their time as Bruins.
In a game of runs, UCLA had the game's longest, scoring 12 consecutive points in the second half to take a 52-38 lead. They were up 55-41 with 14:26 to play. The Wildcats then responded. They cut the lead to 59-54 before Muhammad stopped the bleeding for UCLA with a 3-pointer that gave the Bruins a 62-54 lead with 8:50 to play. The Wildcats did not get closer than six points until Jerrett's 3-pointer with 1:34 to go.
UCLA had several opportunities to take control of the game in the first half, but the Wildcats kept coming back. UCLA led 13-6, then Arizona tied it at 13-13. The game also was knotted at 29 and 34, but the Wildcats could never take the lead. The Bruins got a layup at the halftime buzzer from Larry Drew II to put UCLA up 40-36. . . .
Player of the game: Muhammad, playing on a sprained ankle, scored UCLA's final five points and eight of their last 15. His clutch one-handed rebound with nine seconds left was something to behold.
What it means: UCLA remains in control of its own destiny in the race for the Pac-12 regular-season title. The Bruins are tied with Oregon for first place and would claim at least a share of the title with wins at Washington State and Washington next week. Saturday's victory likely locks up an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament for the Bruins, who missed the tournament last season.
If UCLA and Oregon win the rest of their games this season they will be co-champs. However, Oregon would be the number 1 seed in the PAC 12 tournament by virtue of beating UCLA in their only match up this year. UCLA also locked up a first round bye in the PAC 12 Tournament and at least third place in the conference.
While Shabazz was player of the game, Kyle Anderson was the player of the first half where he single-handedly carried UCLA:
Next year, though, might not include Anderson. He started what could be his final home game by scoring six of UCLA's first 13 points. He closed the half by scoring nine of the Bruins' last 11 points for a 40-36 halftime lead.
"That was maybe his best half of the season," Howland said.
While the play of Jordan Adams has to be the biggest surprise of the season, Larry Drew II has to be a close second. I defy anyone to say they predicted before the season Larry would set the single season UCLA assist record which Larry is almost certain to do in the next two games. Larry Drew came within one assist of a double double and has much improved from three:
There was no getting around the fact that he will be losing Drew, a senior who left in style. He had 14 points and nine assists in his last home game. Drew sank two three-pointers during 12-0 run that gave the Bruins a 55-41 lead with 14 minutes left.
Arizona is definitely overrated but they also have a lot of talent. Poor Parker Jackson Cartwright, the high school star who committed to Arizona, must be having second thoughts. So while at Arizona you get to play with really great athletes, you do not get to play with a coach.
But this game was not about Arizona. It was about the future. A key to that future beyond this season is Kyle Anderson. Would this be Kyle's last game at Pauley?
Howland wasn't as resigned to the departure of freshman Kyle Anderson. The 6-foot-9 point forward's offense has ticked up lately, and ESPN's Chad Ford recently projected him as one of the first players outside the first round. Anderson's answer about his future was similar to Muhammad's.
"I'm not really thinking about that," he said. "I'm too caught up in the season and what we can do to get better every day. I'm not thinking about what's going on after the season."
On Shabazz, I am not sure Howland should have said what he did but I do give him credit for as he said being "a realist."
Howland broke the news in Saturday's postgame news conference.
"I'm very much a realist. I knew going into this it's a one-year deal," Howland said. "It should be. He's a lottery pick. When you have that, it's absolutely the right thing. That was his last game at Pauley Pavilion. There's no doubt about that. I know that. He knows that. We all know that."
Muhammad said he hadn't made a decision yet, and his dad, Ron Holmes, said the same thing.
. . . "With 'Bazz, I'm just keeping it real here," Howland said.
So how much longer do Larry and Shabazz get to play for UCLA? Well according to Howland it may be a while.
Muhammad shied away from the question, explaining that there's too much basketball left for him to know one way or another.
"I'm just really happy I came here," he said.
And with UCLA on the doorstep of a Pac-12 title, just two victories in Washington away from at least sharing the honor, plenty around Westwood are happy for the same reasons.
"We're peaking at the right time," Howland said.
I think there is reason to cheer and be happy about the first sweep of Arizona since 2008, when UCLA last went to the final four. But after a bit of reflection, it must be put in context of being a very good game in a roller coaster season.
For much of this season, Pauley Pavilion saw crowds waver along with its team's fortunes. It took just four games for UCLA to spoil the glow of its new, renovated arena - blemished just after Thanksgiving by an embarrassing loss to Cal Poly.
Unsteady as they looked, the Bruins still cobbled together a 10-win streak that stretched across the new year. Whatever goodwill there was dashed by three losses in four games, including an inexcusable faceplant at home to USC.
Well, the fans came this time, spurred on by a marquee matchup against Arizona and the pregame presence of ESPN College GameDay. Tickets sold out well in advance of the Saturday night tipoff, and the lower tier of the resale market scratched three digits.
The game may have been worth that price.