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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

UCLA’s Larry Drew II calls his own number and the Bruins should be grateful he did

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Five seconds remained in UCLA's matchup with Washington on Thursday night when Shabazz Muhammad curled around a series of screens, clapped his hands and called for Larry Drew II to pass him the ball at the top of the key.

To the surprise of the heralded freshman, Drew declined.

Apparently convinced he had the best chance to help UCLA avoid overtime, Drew dribbled around a Travis Wear screen and pulled up at the left elbow. A split second later, Drew's potentially controversial decision looked wise when he buried the jumper as time expired to give UCLA a 59-57 home win.

"Obviously I knew I had enough time for me to get to the basket and create a shot for myself or one of my teammates," Drew told reporters after the game. "I think the defense pretty much dictated it. ... I had confidence in my jumper, I took the shot and it went in."

Drew's shot ensured UCLA would snap a two-game losing streak and stay in contention for the Pac-12 title. With Oregon losing its third straight game on Thursday night, the Bruins (17-6, 7-3) find themselves in a second-place tie with the Ducks and Arizona State, just one game behind first-place Arizona.

It was a bit surprising to see Drew attempt the game-winning shot simply because of his usual role on the team.

Drew, a quintessential pass-first point guard, averages more assists (8.0) than points (6.3) and is shooting merely 41.5 percent from the field. Muhammad, UCLA's top recruit and leading scorer this season, is averaging 18.4 points per game and had scored 22 against Washington on Thursday night, albeit on pedestrian 8 of 23 shooting.

To Muhammad's credit, he was honest about calling for the final shot yet he also appeared genuinely happy for his teammate in the postgame press conference.

"Yeah, I wanted the ball," Muhammad told reporters with a smile. "But Larry is such an aggressive player. When the ball went up, I knew it was going to be good. Everyone was on him and attacking him. I was like, I know Larry is going to have something broken or he's going to have some scratches. I was going to wait until he got up to congratulate him."

It's impressive UCLA was able to win considering it shot only 33.3 percent from the field and it got out-rebounded 44-34. The Bruins did it by getting to the foul line 18 times, by forcing 19 turnovers and by limiting the Huskies to just two 3-pointers.

All in all, poor shooting and a slow-paced game probably won't be winning formulas too often for this UCLA team. But thanks to Drew's heroics, on Thursday it produced a victory.

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