UCLA beats Arizona, 74-69, to grab share of Pac-12 lead
Saturday was senior night.
UCLA fans said adieu to point guard Larry Drew II.
And if, by chance, this is was one-and-done night, Bruins fans can say c'est la vie.
There was no better sendoff for Drew … and freshman Shabazz Muhammad … and possibly freshman Kyle Anderson, than the sight and sound of fans in Pauley Pavilion roaring with approval as the final seconds ticked off in a 74-69 victory over No. 11 Arizona.
The victory sent the Bruins (22-7 overall, 12-4 in Pac-12 Conference) off to Washington tied with Oregon for first place. The Bruins have not lost at Washington State since 1993 and have not won at Washington since 2004. Those are matters for another day.
“It will be sweet to win the Pac-12,” Muhammad said. But, for now, he said, “We’re going to enjoy this win.”
The Pauley Pavilion-record 13,727 fans in attendance left happy. The players left happy. Heck, even Coach Ben Howland was all chuckles after seeing Muhammad clinch the season sweep of Arizona (23-6, 11-6).
The Bruins led 72-59 with four minutes left, then had to do some scrapping. Muhammad put them over the top, with a defensive rebound and two foul shots with 10 seconds left.
Howland dusted off some shtick, saying, “Shabazz wants to be the guy taking those shots, and we all know he’s disappointed when he doesn’t get to … I’m joking.”
Then quicker than saying don’t-quit-your-day-job, Howland was off talking about the future.
There was no getting around the fact that he will be losing Drew, a senior who left in style. He had 14 points and nine assists in his last home game. Drew sank two three-pointers during 12-0 run that gave the Bruins a 55-41 lead with 14 minutes left.
Howland took the opportunity to give Muhammad a postgame sendoff.
“That was his last game in Pauley,” Howland said. “There’s no doubt about it. I know that. He knows that. We all know that. So we want this season to go on as long as possible.”
Muhammad is pushing that as well. He had 18 points Saturday despite playing on a sprained left ankle. He opened the night with a three-pointer and bookended it with the last four points while fans chanted “one more year.”
Not likely, Howland said.
“I’m a realist guy,” Howland said. “I knew going into this, this deal was a one-year deal. He should be. He’s a lottery pick. It’s the absolutely right thing to do.”
Muhammad, though, was happy to close out the Wildcats, but more reluctant to close the door.
“There’s still a lot of season left,” Muhammad said when asked about Howland’s comments.
What could keep him at UCLA, Muhammad said, is the team.
“Everyone has me leaving,” Muhammad said. “There’s a lot to weigh and I have a lot of eligibility left. We’re only losing Larry. We could be really good next year.”
Next year, though, might not include Anderson. He started what could be his final home game by scoring six of UCLA’s first 13 points. He closed the half by scoring nine of the Bruins’ last 11 points for a 40-36 halftime lead.
“That was maybe his best half of the season,” Howland said.
Anderson finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and dodged questions about his future.
“I’m not really thinking about that,” Anderson said. ‘I’m too caught up in this season.”
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