UCLA isn’t going to win many games with just strong defense, no matter what Coach Ben Howland would prefer.
But they’ll win some with the type of offense displayed Friday night.
The Bruins upset seventh-ranked Missouri, 97-94, in overtime and overcame a head-turning, stomach-scrambling performance by Tigers point guard Phil Pressey, who had 19 points and 19 assists.
With 12 seconds left in the game, Travis Wear hit a 10-foot jump shot to give the Bruins (10-3) their final advantage.
Freshman Shabazz Muhammad led the Bruins with 27 points, and his three-pointer with 1:01 left in the game put his team ahead for good, 95-93. Travis Wear had a career-high 22 points along with a team-high nine rebounds and his brother David Wear added 16 points and six rebounds.
This was a game full of momentum swings. UCLA had a 15-0 run in the first half yet the Bruins were only tied with Missouri, 47-47, at halftime.
And when Keion Bell nailed a three-pointer with 5:47 left in regulation to give the Tigers (10-2) an 83-77 lead, it seemed the Bruins would fall short.
But the Bruins tied the score at 86 with 1:45 left on a David Wear rebound and putback and again at 88 when freshman Jordan Adams worked for a layup with 11 seconds left in regulation.
“This is one of the biggest wins we could possibly get,” said Muhammad. “They are a top-10 team.”
Howland said the win rewarded a team of young players who stayed on campus and practiced on Christmas night. “This was an important win for us. I’m happy our guys kept fighting,” Howland said.
The Bruins had a 15-0 run in the first half to take a 23-11 lead but still wound up tied at halftime. It was 47-47 after Missouri’s Alex Oriakhi had a buzzer-beating layup.
Missouri got back into the game early with the help of 11 straight points from Bell. Bell is from Los Angeles and is a transfer from Pepperdine. When he played for the Waves, Bell had 24- and 22-point games against the Bruins. He finished with 17 Friday.
“This Missouri team is fantastic,” said Howland, who doesn’t often go for the overstatement. Howland also said the collective performance of the Wear twins was, “their best collective performance,” as Bruins.
Howland said that despite Pressey’s impressive-looking final stat line, his team defended the point guard well.
“He took 22 shots,” Howland said. “That’s what we wanted.”
Pressey made only eight of those shots.
The Bruins started slowly, missing 12 of their first 15 shots, but Missouri’s 20-for-40 shooting after 20 minutes had Howland’s defensive mind doing somersaults.
“We’ve got to get better defensively,” Howland said.
Missouri Coach Frank Haith lamented the lost leads in regulation. “We didn’t execute very well,” he said. “We made some really gambling plays and that really cost us.’