HOUSTON — The game was nationally televised on ESPN, but it was more suited for Comedy Central.
UCLA and Texas tried to play basketball Saturday, but both failed to produce much more than a 40-minute blooper reel.
Neither squad fought to win so much as both tried to lose — and on that end, Texas tried a bit harder, falling, 65-63, to UCLA in front of a puny crowd of 2,797 at Reliant Stadium.
“They didn’t beat us,” said Texas Coach Rick Barnes, whose team dropped to 5-4. “We gave this one away.”
UCLA ended the game on a 12-2 run, helping it overcome an eight-point deficit in the final three minutes.
The Bruins (6-3) then boarded a commercial flight, escaping this city in a hurry — just as it did in the game.
Yes, the final score was close, but only because these teams put forth equally comical performances.
There were passes to no one in particular, missed wide-open layups and numerous ill-advised shots, only a few of which even hit the rim. The teams combined for 21 turnovers, but it seemed like twice that many.
“It was a really sloppy game,” said UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, who finished with 16 points.
It also could’ve been deemed “cruel and unusual punishment” for any basketball purist who tuned in, but UCLA will take any win it can get these days, no matter how hideous.
The Bruins will wait a week before playing again.
And what will they work on between now and then?
“We’ve got to work on everything,” Coach Ben Howland said.
Defense would be a good place to start.
Texas scored inside whenever it wanted, tallying 30 points in the paint.
But the Longhorns doomed themselves from beyond the arc, missing 16 of 20 three-point attempts.
Jordan Adams was the hero for UCLA, a recurring theme for the Bruins this season.
The freshman guard converted a three-point play to tie the score at 61 with 1:15 left, after which he pumped his fists and shouted, a rare act for the soft-spoken Atlanta native.
“I just wanted to get fired up and keep my team fired up,” said Adams, who scored a game-high 17 points.
Adams then found Kyle Anderson for a layup that gave the Bruins a three-point lead with 25 seconds left.
Anderson, another freshman, was also key late, with two blocks and two steals in the final two minutes. He had 11 points and six rebounds.
“Everybody is out to get these guys because they’re highly touted, [the] No. 1 recruiting class in the country,” Howland said. “It’s a good experience for them to see how hard it’s going to be, how hard you have to fight, how hard you have to prepare.”
Texas seemed like easy prey, as the Longhorns had suffered embarrassing losses to Chaminade and USC and scored only 41 points in a recent loss against Georgetown.
But after the game, it was once again clear that nothing will be easy for the Bruins this season.