Still waiting on Muhammad, UCLA survives
by Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA TODAY Sports
Shabazz Muhammad being ruled ineligible appeared to be an annoyance for many UCLA fans when they learned the freshman forward wouldn’t be making his debut in the team’s opener.
But the star recruit’s absence took on new meaning Tuesday when the Bruins scrambled to defeat UC-Irvine 80-79 in overtime. UCLA needs Muhammad, and soon.
Ben Howland’s crew showed plenty of shortcomings that Muhammad won’t be able to repair on his own, such as the -12 rebounding margin it posted Tuesday night. But even though Muhammad might need time to adapt when he does play, it’s hard to imagine him not adding an assertiveness to a team that lacked that quality in its second game of the season.
After trading baskets with the Anteaters for most of the second half, the Bruins left UC-Irvine’s Alex Young wide open in the corner for a three-pointer for a 67-65 lead. UC-Irvine then twice missed out on opportunities to close out the game. With ten seconds left, Michael Wilder turned the ball over, and Jordan Adams sank two free throws to tie the game again. But Anteaters forward Will Davis II couldn’t do the same when he was sent to the line with three seconds left, missing both attempts.
Adams’ aggressiveness proved to be critical for the Bruins, as the freshman was a perfect 16-of-16 from the line. But the Bruins otherwise looked out of sorts. I won’t say that the end of this Josh Smith coast-to-coast attempt encapsulated the night in Pauley Pavilion, but it wasn’t completely out of place.
It’s not hard to believe that, according to The Los Angeles Times, Adams and fellow freshmen Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker wore “Free Shabazz” shirts during warmups.
I can’t recall the last time that the NCAA took orders from a T-shirt. But with Georgetown, San Diego State and Texas on the schedule in coming weeks, UCLA might as well try whatever it can.