UCLA 97, Missouri 94 (OT): Have the Bruins arrived?

Yes, if your expectations aren’t a Final Four. In just one month since the face-plant against Cal Poly, UCLA has staged a slow, remarkable turnaround that culminated with the upset of the No. 7 Tigers — easily the Bruins’ biggest win of the season. (Missouri was technically a slight underdog in Vegas, but come on.)

They’ll pop back into the AP poll next week, after a win that cemented the key to saving Ben Howland’s job: letting go. This team might get incrementally better on defense, but it just doesn’t have the raw ability to ever play man the way Howland likes. But as Shabazz Muhammad said earlier this season, this team needs to up its pace and run fewer set plays. Let its freshmen freestyle on the run and hope they can outscore the other team on most nights.

That plan won’t result in 58.6 percent second-half shooting every night — how often are the Wears going to combine for 38 points? — but the Pac-12 only has one team (Arizona) that’s clearly better than the Tigers.

The high-end for this team could look something like last year’s Missouri squad, one that earned a No. 2 seed before being knocked out in the first round.

“This was a huge win for us especially going into conference play,” Travis Wear said. “To be going in with this type of momentum is awesome.”

Key Players: Shabazz Muhammad, for showing off a killer instinct in drilling two crucial 3-pointers in overtime. The second one, which gave the Bruins a 95-93 lead, was a particularly impressive offensive set: UCLA was patient as it swung the ball around the perimeter, with Kyle Anderson smartly passing up an OK 3-point look before giving the ball to Larry Drew for the eventual assist. Muhammad’s game still isn’t particularly well rounded — see one rebound in 34 minutes – but he’s shaping up as the team’s go-to guy in crunch time.

“I’m really comfortable. I like taking the big shots,” he said. “I just felt comfortable shooting it. Larry trusted me on the shot and I just hit it.”

Phil Pressey gets the other nod for a monster double-double. His 19 assists set a school record and was the best single-game total in Division I this year. He was also three assists from tying the NCAA record of 22, shared by three players.

Key stat: Six turnovers. Howland has talked about how pleased he’s been all season with his team’s ability to take care of the ball, even when it was struggling in nearly every other facet of the game. Missouri turned the ball over 17 times, which helped nullify its 12-4 advantage on 3-point makes.

Home court advantage: Missouri might not make it back into the top-10 for the rest of the season. Some of the Tigers’ flaws were exposed Friday night, and they were still a team playing in their first true road game this year after four neutral-site match-ups.

From the always informative Ken Pomeroy:

Home teams that won by one or two points were 16-52 in the rematches, winning just 23.5% of the time. Most fans like to think the results of a close game as just because teams that emerge victorious show grittiness, heart, and toughness. But those teams were almost certain losers when they faced the same team on the road. What happened to the grittiness then? To me, there’s no greater statement to the influence of luck in the outcome of a close game than the struggles of close home winners in a road game against the same team.

UCLA did get lucky at times Friday night, perhaps most so at the end of regulation when Jordan Adams blatantly fouled Pressey. The Mizzou point guard played up the collision a bit, but Adams nonetheless made no effort whatsoever toward the ball and should have gotten hit with an intentional foul. That would have meant two potential go-ahead free throws with four seconds left. But in the end, the well-devised strategy to use up fouls worked, and the Tigers never got a clean look at the basket.

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  • maze949

    Is Ty-diddles an actual UCLA graduate (or even a fan)? I’m PROUD of the players–they battled back a few times there, after some late deficits. Pressey was absolutely unconscious toward the end, but we found a way to win. Nestor and Co. can whine all they want…

    • http://twitter.com/effectivepull Scott

      FUCK Nestor. FUCK Tydides.

    • EncinitasBruin

      DeVry Institute drop out, I believe.

  • bruin fan

    The best thing to do is to stay off the bruin nation site. Its not reporting its a fan site used to express their misguided agenda. Its not worth your time to read that garbage

    • BruinSinceBarnes

      Strongly agree. I check out BN periodically, but the guys over there remind me of my sophomore know-it-all son. You’ve got to wait for him to grow up if you want an intelligent conversation. They have their own agenda which prevents them from appreciating a great performance by our tenacious kids.

      I laughed reading that post about Mizzou choking. Kind of like Cazzie Russell and Michigan “choking” against Goodrich & Co. in ’65.

      • EncinitasBruin

        That’s hilarious. I have a junior daughter and an eighth grade daughter, so I know what you mean. As Twain said, “My parents became so much more intelligent from the time I was 16 to the time I turned 23.”

      • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

        The article is nothing compared to Tydides’ ridiculous “defense” of his malice in the comments.

    • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.carlson47 Arthur Carlson

      Check out Bruin Gold for reasonable, knowledgeable discussion without the “hater” agenda.

      • EncinitasBruin

        Thanks Art, will do.

  • samollie

    I couldn’t help myself. I rubber-necked the comments of the BN article. It’s good to see the logical alum weighing in heavily, but this so-called Bruin Tydides reaction is nothing short of comical. Immature, unprofessional, boorish. Then big brother Nestor has to defend him (like Dr, Frankenstein protecting his mad creation) along with the rest of the brainwashed circle-jerks. It is so sad these “editors” have hi-jacked “BruinNation”. It is anything but representative of the true BruinNation. I hope readers come back to this site and real alums can use this forum for critical discussions for the adults. BN is, and always will be, the “kiddie table”.

    • Reformed Droog

      Agreed – Which is why I think the lack of attention to this blog is a major missed opportunity. Instead of growing it – knowing there is a large community that want somewhere to go – the Daily News is treating it as a secondary outlet. I’ve been fairly happy with what I’ve seen from Jack, but there hasn’t been enough of it, and certainly not at the bleeding edge.

  • Chimbo77

    I agree generally Jack provides good commentary, but he hasn’t provided anything that I have not read somewhere else or anything that is breaking news. I also, think that several of us, myslef included moved to other websites when things were in constant flux here starting from the beginning of training camp until now.

    About last nights game….Wow, it was great to see Pauley Pavillion rocking again. I have seen it like that since the last game at the old Pauley Pavillion. Defense is improving and the team seemed to be putting the effort into that I haven’t sen in a long time. I agree with Jack that you this won’t be an Aaron Aflalo led defense, but it can be solid.

    Kyle Anderson was exposed on defense especially defending the pick and roll, just seemed lost out there. Also, Missouri finsihing at the rim drove me crazy. No one gave them the sort of hard foul that would discourage those types of moves.

    On ofense Howland seemed to be giving the freshman a little more freedom and more importantly trusting them to do the right thing.

  • Bruin18

    Proud of BruinSinceBarnes. I’m since Sanders but sure remember the 1965 game against Michigan. I don’t mind some of the criticisms of BN but if the focus is ALWAYS on the negative maybe the critic should just go read a book.

    • EncinitasBruin

      Wisely said. I think the frustration is more longterm build up: this blog has been a wonderful, fresh source of Bruin news for years, and some of us simply feel like DN has sort of taken their foot off the gas pedal. I don’t personally blame the beat writer (Jack Wang)–I’m a professional writer who has worked on a magazine staff as a reporter, and you can only report as much or as little as your managing editor dictates. Some have “style and substance” complaints against Jack; personally, I think he is doing a decent job. Think the drop in amount of coverage is coming from higher up. Just my two cents.

    • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

      There is little “positive,” unless you consider sycophantic group-think and plagiarism “good.”

  • EncinitasBruin

    Just taking a quick poll: How many of us have been banned from “The Communist Worker” (otherwise known as BruinsNation) because of this trogladyte Tydides? We are grown men and women, many of us UCLA grads, and ALL of us Bruin-loving fans simply in search of some good UCLA coverage. How absurd is this!? I’ve resorted to ESPN, Yoon, etc for most of my Bruin news now. I don’t mind ESPN too much, but I do get tired of dealing with a large amount of trolls (i.e. SEC folks, etc). The reason I’ve always liked it at DN is because it’s been an actual community here. I’ve given up on BN–which is sad, since it really is being held hostage by an emotional four-year-old. I’m committed to continuing to contribute here if everyone else is.

    • Reformed Droog

      I’ve been banned…three times. I just make a new account every so often just to rile them up.

      • ProbationU

        Tydides is a complete a$$ clown. Negative 24/7. Can’t even enjoy a win…and yes I have been banned. Haven’t tried rejoining because I would just get banned again by not subscribing 100% to the Politburo and the thought police on Bruins Nation. I think Tydides favorite drink must be vinegar and water out of his personal douche bag.

    • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

      A shorter list would be: Who hasn’t been banned at BN?

    • http://twitter.com/onlysublime Patrick Nguyen

      bruinsnation is a mess. i wrote a comment that bruins fans should support each other. that fans shouldn’t be calling each other names and calling dan guerrero “chianti” and other stupid namecalling.

      for that, I got reprimanded for trolling and for trying to demean fellow posters. meanwhile, all of them go off hard on anyone UCLA-related. it’s run like a fascist society over there. if you don’t agree with their cult, you’re a heretic.

  • Wack Jang

    Jordan Adams didn’t make a play on the ball? Perhaps you were blinded by the glare off of Bill Walton’s over whitened teeth (or you just didn’t actually watch). That kid flopped so hard that even Ginobli said “damn!”.

  • uclawarren

    The guys at BN are all-or-nothing, and if you disagree with their opinions, you are WRONG. They want to make sure that their position is solid, so they will never relent. I find it amusing that they are railing against Howland’s offense when this is the same offense he ran during the Final Four years, and when people disparaged it back then (and rightfully so, since it was always the “pass it around the perimeter until the shot clock runs down and then jack up a 3″ offense), they threatened to ban those people. Now they have suddenly been switched to believing that this offense is any different and threaten to ban anyone who thinks differently. They are petulant, horrible kids, and I wouldn’t care about them if they didn’t represent us to the rest of the world on the internet.