Friday night’s game was far from error free and the #7 Tigers inexplicably tried to get a little cute with the ball down the stretch. In the end it cost them dearly as they lost to the UCLA Bruins 97-94 in overtime.
On the whole, it was a wildly entertaining and, at the same time, a terribly frustrating game to watch. The latter was augmented at the end of regulation when UCLA intentionally fouled the Tigers four times because they had fouls to give and NCAA rules are stuck in the dark ages. The last of those four was, in my biased opinion, a blatant flagrant foul but one that was called as just a garden variety infraction. That non-call was one of many individual events that cost Mizzou the game but it shouldn’t have been that close to begin with.
For the Tigers it was a game of missed opportunities, missed wide-open shots (including uncontested layups) and terrible decision making. Though it was a tough loss, there is little question in my mind that Missouri was the better team on the court. If the two teams played ten times, I’d hazard a guess that the Bruins would come out on the short end on seven or eight of them and it’s almost impossible to imagine they could repeat their 17-6 turnover advantage in any one of those ten. But tonight was one of those two or three that found the Bruins in the in the win column and credit is due to the team that shot 50.6% from the floor. If nothing else, the game provides Frank Haith with plenty of coaching opportunities going forward.
Aside from what happened on the court, if you had the “pleasure” of watching the game on ESPN2 you were subjected to the torture that is Bill Waltontrying to do color commentary. Among his many gems of ignorance tonight were his statement that they should lower the baskets in women’s basketball to make it more interesting. I’m sure he will be issuing an apology based on that nugget within 24 hours. Whether he does or not, he should be ashamed of himself and I’m still searching for a reason that anyone lets him near a microphone to call a game.
As far as the individual performances are concerned, Phil Pressey statistically had a game to remember. He finished with a solid 19 points on 8-22 shooting in 44 minutes but it’s the school record 19 assists that he racked up that really stand out. Pressey should have easily had a 20 assist game but his teammate missed several wide open shots along the way to keep him from that milestone. Unfortunately he was part of the reason the Bruins got back into the game down the stretch by taking a number of ill-advised shots and throwing some terrible passes. Laurence Bowers was again solid with 17 points and 9 rebounds while Keion Bell matched him in scoring and pulled down six boards of his own. Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown were also in double digits with 16 and 14 points respectively and each added seven rebounds to their stat lines.
For UCLA it was freshman Shabazz Muhammad that carried the team at the end finishing with 27 points on 10-19 shooting. He accounted for seven of the Bruins nine points in the overtime including two key three pointers. Travis Wear also came up big with 22 points and nine rebounds while David Wear finished with 16 points and six rebounds on a perfect 7-7 shooting. While Muhammad shouldered the load in overtime, it was fellow freshman Jordan Adams that got them there by scoring five of the team’s last seven points at the end of the second half. Though he was just 4-13 from the floor he played a prominent role in the outcome with five assists, four rebounds and two steals in addition to his twelve points on the night.
UCLA (10-3) will dip into Pac-12 conference play next Thursday with a road game against the California Golden Bears (8-3).
The Tigers (10-2) will host the Patriot League’s Bucknell Bison (12-2) next Saturday. For the Bison, both of their losses have come on the road with the first a three point loss to Penn State back in November. The second was a twelve point loss to Princeton the weekend before Christmas. Bucknell is led in scoring (18.6), rebounds (10.8), assists (2.7) and blocks (2.5) by 6’11” senior Mike Muscala. In addition to his statistical prowess Muscala also hails from Roseville, MN which happens to be right in stomping grounds of my youth.