The UCLA Bruins (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12) had a little over a week to lick their wounds after losing two straight games to the Arizona State Sun Devils and cross-town rival USC Trojans.
The biggest question going in to tonight’s game against the Washington Huskies (13-9, 5-4 Pac-12) was the old adage of “rest vs. rust.”
Will Shabazz Muhammad be able to continue his dominant play of the last three games, or will he put up an abysmal performance like he did against Oregon on Jan. 19?
Will the Wear twins make serviceable contributions?
Will Larry Drew II continue to be the best passer in the conference?
Here are the five things that we learned from tonight’s win over Washington.
Shabazz Muhammad Is a No. 1 Draft Pick
Even with his team going 2-2 in the past four games, Muhammad is averaging 21 points per game over that stretch.
Although his 34 percent shooting from the field is nothing to write home about, the fact that he was the only player in double figures by taking 23 of the total 66 attempts proves that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
He also led the team with eight rebounds, six of them offensive to keep the ball in play for the Bruins.
The Wear Twins Need to Work on Their Shots
Travis Wear started and played 34 minutes. He made two baskets.
He was 5-of-6 from the line, but shooting 22-percent from the field will never be an acceptable number.
His brother David came off the bench and played 25 minutes and didn’t fare much better. He shot 3-of-7 from the field and missed his only free-throw attempt.
David was able to pull down an admirable seven rebounds while Travis had a couple of steals and a blocked shot, but the Wear boys need to find their shot to make the Bruins a viable team if they are to go dancing in March.
Larry Drew II Is One of the Best Passers in the NCAA
His assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.86 is by far the best in the league with Trey Burke from Michigan over a full point behind at 3.77.
He played all but four minutes this evening and only tallied nine points, but he also led the team in steals with five.
As long as Drew continues to dish the dimes at a healthy tick. people will look beyond his scoring average.
Thursday night’s late-game heroics also make him more valuable down the line.
Jordan Adams Is the Second Best Freshman on the Team
So much for the vaunted duo of Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker making an impact with Muhammad. Jordan Adams was overlooked by nearly everybody in favor of the aforementioned trio of freshmen.
Adams is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging over 15 points a game, and leads the team in steals with 42, averaging 1.82 per game.
So much for the recruit ratings that put Kyle Anderson as the No. 3 recruit in the country and Tony Parker at No. 27 (via Rivals). Adams barely broke the top 100 coming in at No. 62.
Tony Parker Is Verging on Being Labeled a Bust
Tony Parker is only averaging seven minutes per contest and isn’t really doing much to earn more playing time. The 6’9″, 275-pound forward/center from Atlanta is showing his inexperience while the other freshmen are blossoming nicely.
His limited minutes don’t stop him from being in the top five in one category, though—personal fouls.
At least when he is fouled underneath, he is shooting 41-percent from the line—wait, that’s not good either.
In his 10th season at UCLA, Ben Howland is flirting with disaster.
As it stands right now, the Bruins are in decent shape. They are in a three-way tie with Oregon and Arizona State (two teams that they have lost to) and only a game behind Arizona, a team that they destroyed in Tucson.
The narrow 59-57 victory over a 13-9 Washington team at home can only spell trouble for Howland and the Bruins. If nobody on the team besides Muhammad and Adams are going to make worthy contributions to this team, they can kiss their tournament hopes good bye.
I would like to say that their schedule gets easier hosting Washington State on Saturday, but then they go on a three-game road trip to Cal, Stanford and then back to USC.
The four teams are a combined 16-22 in conference and one would assume that the Bruins would have no problem with any of them.
Tonight’s slim victory also taught us that assumptions are, well..you know what they say about assumptions.