Bruins defeat Washington with last-gasp shot, 62-61
Names that will probably never be linked again. Kobe Bryant . . . Mustafa Abdul-Hamid.
Once was enough for UCLA.
Abdul-Hamid had a moment of clarity, driving toward the top of the key, pausing to let a Washington player breeze past, then sinking an 18-foot jumper at the buzzer.
A quick review by referees, and the Bruins had the moment they needed, a 62-61 victory over Washington on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion, and Abdul-Hamid had a moment a former walk-on dreams about.
“Don’t laugh, but I remember an interview with Kobe Bryant where he said on these type of situations that the offense knows the clock, the defense doesn’t,” the 6-foot-2 Abdul-Hamid said. But, he added, “I think we kind of fell into one there.”
Better than stepping in it.
The Bruins were just days removed from a woeful performance against USC and three seconds from taking a better grip on last place in the Pacific 10 Conference. Venoy Overton went coast to coast for a layup that gave the Huskies a 61-60 lead with three seconds left.
The Bruins, without a timeout, got the ball to Abdul-Hamid at midcourt and he made his mad dash toward the basket. That was followed by a mass of humanity as Bruins fans, with little else to cheer so far this season, rushed the court.
“I’ve never been happier for a player since I’ve been in coaching than I am for Mustafa,” Coach Ben Howland said. “He’s spent countless hours by himself, working on his shot. It’s so rewarding and gratifying to have a kid like him in our program. You ask any player on our team and they will say no one works harder.”
Howland gushed about being “so happy for our team” following feelings of being “embarrassed” after the 67-46 loss to USC.
Abdul-Hamid had Howland smiling afterward, a change from his standard off-to-see-the-tax-examiner expression -- “He’s a great student-athlete who will go on and do great things in his life.”
But it remains a moment for Howland’s memoir.
UCLA literally took baby steps, with freshmen Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson stoking the Bruins’ flame.
Honeycutt, who has battled injuries this season, had his best all-around game with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal. Nelson led the Bruins with 16 points.
Both made key plays down the stretch. Honeycutt had both of his blocks while the Bruins were clawing to get a foothold in the second half.
At one point, Honeycutt blocked a shot on one end, then scored on the other with a dispy-doodle move, to give UCLA a 52-49 lead.
“In high school, there weren’t as many plays,” said Honeycutt, who was fourfor four from the field. “We did a motion type of thing and most high school kids couldn’t guard me. Now I’m learning to find a spot on the floor where I’m comfortable to score from, whether it’s inside or outside.”
And the difference now?
“It’s knowing I can make the shot and not hesitating on the shot and not hesitating on the dribble,” Honeycutt said. “I have been rushing, which is something that happens to freshmen.”
Nelson has more of a bull-in-the-china-shop style. But he smashed his way inside for a key layup that pulled UCLA to within one, 59-58, with 33 seconds left.
“Coach has been on me all season about working in practice,” Nelson said. “Everything came so easy in high school. Lately, I have been applying myself all the time.”
The Bruins had to apply themselves throughout the game.
A little more consistency meant that the Bruins were not run out of Pauley Pavilion in the first half, as they were by the Trojans on Saturday. Forward Quincy Pondexter had 15 first-half points as Washington took a 41-37 lead into the locker room.
Pondexter made four of six shots, with three of his field goals giving the Huskies leads. Isaiah Thomas had nine points as the Huskies shot 58% against UCLA’s two-three zone.
But the Bruins were more aggressive in the zone after halftime. Washington made only eight of 27 shots in the second half.
UCLA shot 53% for the game, but was 100% on the one that mattered.
“You just have to believe in yourself and let the shot go,” Abdul-Hamid said.