UCLA beat Washington 59-57 on Thursday thanks to a game winning jumper from Larry Drew, but the dramatics of the last seconds were eclipsed by the doldrums of minutes 1 through 39. Both teams shot poorly, played generally weak defense, and looked poorly coached.
Shabazz Muhammad finished with 22 points, but spent most of the game playing selfish offensive basketball, jacking up 23 shots and not registering a single assist. He didn't shoot particularly well, obviously, making just eight of his shots. His floater, which was so reliable through the first half of the season, deserted him on Thursday, but he kept going back to it. His defense was marginally better on Thursday than it has been, but we still haven't seen the level of competitiveness that we were expecting from him on that end of the floor.
For the first time in two games, the opposing team actually defended Larry Drew, inexplicably, which allowed him to create off the dribble more than he was able to against ASU or USC. Naturally, Drew followed with one of his better games in the past month or so, playing fairly under control on offense and looking more consistently active on defense than he's looked this year.
Jordan Adams continues his shooting slump, and now is below 30% from three on the season after going 0-4 on Thursday. He actually got a few decent looks against the Huskies' defense, but couldn't connect. His defensive effort overall this season has improved greatly from the first game of the year, but it lapsed at times on Thursday.
Obviously, rebounding and interior defense once again were issues for the Bruins. Travis Wear and David Wear are just not true post players, and when faced with real posts like Aziz N'diaye, it becomes very apparent. Travis Wear didn't have a single rebound in the first half, and finished with just three. Neither shot well, with the brothers combining to shoot 5 of 16.
Tony Parker played just two minutes, both in the first half, and Norman Powell played just 15 minutes overall. Travis Wear, incidentally, looked totally gassed by the end of the game.
Washington, of course, played worse than UCLA, with C.J. Wilcox filling the role as the gunner without a conscience. There was very little offensive execution, and the Huskies also didn't play very good defense. Of course, they also missed quite a few open, makeable looks, especially from three.
While the game doesn't exactly put UCLA back in the driver's seat in the Pac-12 race, it does solidify some of the pecking order. With Oregon losing yet again, this time to Colorado, it's pretty fair to say that the Ducks are spiraling without Dominic Artis. If Artis can make it back soon, then the Ducks may right the ship, but he's almost certainly not going to be back for this weekend's game against Utah. That leaves UCLA, ASU, and Arizona among the contenders, with the Wildcats at 8-2 in conference and the Ducks, Sun Devils, and Bruins at 7-3.
Amazingly, despite this three game stretch of truly bad basketball, the Bruins still stand a halfway decent chance of winning the Pac-12, or at the very least ending in the top 4 in the conference. A loss on Thursday might have actually started to put NCAA Tournament hopes into question, so Drew's shot was certainly key in that respect.
UCLA Lucky to Win
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