UCLA compliance looking into Shabazz’s Gucci backpack

Ben Howland said Friday that UCLA’s compliance department is looking into Shabazz Muhammad’s Gucci backpack, one he was seen wearing after the team’s 84-73 win at No. 6 Arizona. Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde pointed out the backpack after the swingman scored a game-high 23 points. He didn’t make any explicit accusations, but did bring up Muhammad’s three-game suspension from the beginning of the season.

(UPDATE: The UCLA compliance office confirmed it was a family gift and closed the matter.)

From Yahoo! Sports:

After putting the Bruins on his back with a game-high 23 points, Muhammad put something else on his back before leaving the arena – a black Gucci backpack.

It was a nice look.

Nice enough that I checked Gucci.com Thursday night and found 18 backpacks, with the cheapest going for $990 retail. But, hey, I’m sure these things can be found on sale, right?

Howland did not want to offer an opinion on whether or not he felt the issue was overblown, but Muhammad’s sister Asia responded to Forde on Twitter.

She said over four tweets: “I read your condescending remark about @phenom15balla leaving with a Gucci backpack after beating Arizona. That was a birthday present from myself (his sister) and his mother. I have the original receipt if you need to verify that. @phenom15balla doesn’t need anything from anyone except his family. I understand you’re a very distinguished writer, congrats on that, but you’re barking up the wrong tree on this one.”

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Travis Wear to miss ASU game

Travis Wear will sit out with a concussion when UCLA visits Arizona State tomorrow at 1 p.m. PT. The junior forward’s string of seven straight double-digit scoring games was cut short in a 87-73 win at Arizona Thursday night when he missed the second half after colliding with Wildcat forward Brandon Ashley.

His absence means freshman Tony Parker will almost certain play double-digit minutes for the second straight game, something he did once before in mid-December in against Texas and Prairie View A&M.

In Tucson, the 6-foot-9 center had six points, three rebounds and a block in 10 minutes while recording just one foul. His best play was a turnaround jumper with 6:48 left in the game; he drew a foul and converted the three-point play to give the Bruins a 63-55 lead.

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FINAL: UCLA 84, Arizona 73

McKale Center hosted a free-throw party in the final minutes, but UCLA held on at Arizona for a thrilling 84-73 win — easily the Bruins biggest of the season. The path to the Pac-12 title still requires an Oregon loss, but UCLA rebounded impressively from a humbling home loss to Oregon.

A telling quote from Travis Wear earlier this week: “We’ve done a good job going into games where we put a lot of pressure on ourselves — when we really know it’s going to be a big game. I think the last time we did that was Missouri. Going into that game, we viewed that as a ‘must-win’ and we did well.”

The Bruins led by as much as 14 seven minutes into the second half, but they’ve allowed teams to come back (see: Utah, Colorado). This time, in the face of the loudest crowd they’ve seen yet, they withstood a 10-0 run that cut the lead to 55-51 at 11:12.

Shabazz Muhammad, who scored a game-high 23 points, was responsible for a key five point swing with under six minutes to go, following up a 3-pointer with a steal and two free throws. That stretched the UCLA lead to 68-58. The Bruins then scored 10 of their final 14 points at the charity stripe to seal the game.

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Travis Wear out for second half

Travis Wear is sitting out the second half with concussion-like symptoms. That ends his streak of seven straight games with double-digit scoring. He made all three of his shots in the first half for six points. Little-used freshman big man Tony Parker played just three minutes in the first half, but might finally top 10 for the first time since Dec. 15.

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UCLA at No. 6 Arizona: Halftime Update

UCLA holds a 40-30 halftime lead and didn’t look phased at all, silencing the McKale Center early. The difference was simple through the first 10 minutes: the Bruins made shots and grabbed rebounds; the Wildcats didn’t.

Arizona hardly looked like a top-10 team early on, failing to score its second field goal until 12:17 in the first half on a Grant Jerrett layup. UCLA forward Travis Wear responded 16 seconds later with a jumper, and UCLA went up 21-5 going into a media timeout. The Bruins were 10 of 15 from the field, while the Wildcats were 2 of 14.

Shabazz Muhammad inexplicably went to the bench after scoring 7 of UCLA’s first 15 points on 3-of-4 shooting. He spent the first few minutes of the game burning guard Nick Johnson, but drew much more attention from 6-foot-7 forward Solomon Hill after re-entering the game. Muhammad finished the half with a game-high 11 points, but expect Hill to hound him for the entire second half. Continue reading

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UCLA vs. No. 6 Arizona: What to Watch

No. 6 Arizona (16-1, 4-1)
Tipoff: 6 p.m. PT, McKale Center
TV/Radio: ESPN2, AM-570

At a glance: Freshman Shabazz Muhammad called this game a “gotta-win,” something that still holds true after Oregon held on to beat Washington State last night after trailing by 10 at halftime. The Ducks remain the only Pac-12 team undefeated through conference play, and will hold a two-game lead over the loser in Tucson.

Junior forward Travis Wear echoed those same thoughts: “I think we’re all feeling that way right now. … This is a big week for us. We’ve got to get two wins to keep us up there near the top.”

– Arizona has plenty of size with its freshman trio of Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett all measuring at least 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, but gets rebounding contributions Continue reading

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Priest Willis commits to UCLA

UCLA could have its best recruiting class in at least a decade. Defensive back Priest Willis, ranked a five-star cornerback by Scout.com and a four-star safety by rivals, committed to the Bruins this evening — giving the team two elite additions to its secondary in one day.

With defensive linemen Kylie Fitts and Eddie Vanderdoes still on the horizon between now and Feb. 6, UCLA could easily have a top-five class. The Bruins reeled in Scout.com’s No. 5 class in 2009, but Rivals.com had that haul at No. 14. That ranking also hinged on five-star tight end Morrell Presley, a bust who was later arrested for burglary after leaving the team. None of the recruits this year have that sort of baggage.

Scout and Rivals haven’t both doled out top-five rankings to UCLA since at least 2002, the end of their recruiting class archives. The Bruins were ranked seventh and ninth that year, with the biggest haul being Marcedes Lewis.

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Tahaan Goodman commits to UCLA

Tahaan Goodman, the four-star safety out of Rancho Cucamonga, extinguished most of the surprise at his Wednesday announcement with this setup:

UCLA got its 14th four-star commitment in Goodman, beating out USC and Oklahoma in the final hat selection. He had also been linked to LSU and Texas A&M, but ended up staying close to home, the latest addition to an incredible recruiting push by the Bruins’ coaching staff. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect — ranked California’s fourth-best recruit by Rivals.com — should figure into the defensive backfield rotation immediately, especially given that UCLA graduated three starters from its secondary.

The defending Pac-12 South champions, who also reeled in four-star defensive backs Tyler Foreman and Johnny Johnson over the weekend, now await an announcement from Priest Willis at 6 p.m. Willis, a standout at Marcos de Niza High in Tempe, Ariz., is thought of as a package deal with Goodman — both visited Westwood together this past weekend after Goodman’s plans for a trip to LSU fell through.

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UCLA adds women’s sand volleyball

Say hello to UCLA’s 25th intercollegiate sport: women’s sand volleyball. Starting this spring, the Bruins will practice and play home matches at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica.

UCLA Hall of Famer and former Olympian Stein Metzger will coach the team, working indoor head coach Michael Sealy.

The NCAA hasn’t added sand volleyball to its national championship programming, but did name it an “emerging sport” in 2009, with competition beginning in 2011-12. UCLA joins 20 other schools nationwide, including Long Beach State and USC.

You can read the full release from here.

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Defensive back Priest Willis announcing tomorrow

Elite defensive back Priest Willis will announce his college decision Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT. The press conference will take place at Marcos De Niza High in Tempe, Ariz., with UCLA being the presumptive favorite over LSU. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect is rated a four-star safety by Rivals.com and a five-star cornerback by Scout.com.

Willis was on campus with four-star safety Tahaan Goodman this past weekend, which bodes well for the Bruins’ chance at getting the Rancho Cucamonga prospect too. Goodman originally planned to visit LSU.

UPDATE: Goodman will also announce tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. In less than 24 hours, UCLA’s top-10 class could vault past USC’s on both Scout.com and Rivals.com for the first time since 2002, when the Bruins landed Marcedes Lewis. UCLA is currently No. 9 and 10 on Scout and Rivals, while the Trojans are No. 10 and 7, respectively.

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