March 9, 2013
SEATTLE - Shabazz Muhammad scored a game-high 21 points and Jordan Adams added 17 as No. 23 UCLA clinched the Pac-12 Conference regular-season title with a 61-54 win at Washington before 8,747 at Alaska Airlines Arena on Saturday.
The Bruins (23-8, 13-5) secured their fourth regular-season crown under 10th-year head coach Ben Howland, landing the conference title in outright fashion after Oregon lost at Utah, 72-62.
UCLA won for the first time at Washington since Jan. 2004, snapping an eight-game losing streak against the Huskies in Seattle.
In addition, the Bruins won their first conference regular-season title since 2008, the program's fourth in the last eight seasons (2006, 2007, 2008, 2013).
"That was a great win for our team today, after the disappointment of losing on Wednesday on the road," Howland said. "To come in here and win for the first time in nine years, people ask why is it so hard? They're really good, they're always good, and Lorenzo [Romar] does a terrific job."
Muhammad scored 14 of his team-leading 12 points in the second half as the Bruins overcame a four-point deficit in the final five minutes.
Scott Suggs led Washington with 14 points, connecting on 6-of-10 shots.
"It feels awesome to get a Pac-12 Championship," Travis Wear said. "That was our goal at the beginning of the season. We fought through some adversity during the season and to end it in this environment, coming to Washington to get the win is great."
With the contest tied, 52-52, with 4:18 to play, Muhammad made one of two free throws at the 2:51 mark to put the Bruins ahead by one point. Muhammad returned to the foul line with 2:33 left and made a pair of free throws, pushing UCLA's cushion to 55-52.
Adams drew a foul with 1:14 left and made both free throw attempts to hand UCLA a 57-52 advantage. After Shawn Kemp, Jr. scored on a slam dunk, trimming the Bruins' margin to 57-54, Larry Drew II cut to the hoop and made a driving layup with 33 seconds remaining to put UCLA ahead, 59-54.
Drew II finished the game with seven points and a team-leading six assists, pushing his season assist total to a new single-season school record of 239 (surpassing Pooh Richardson's 236-assist total from 1989).
Washington led by as many as seven points early in the first half and entered halftime holding a 31-30 cushion over the Bruins.
UCLA opened the second half using a 10-2 run to secure a 40-33 margin. But Washington rallied, tying the contest 45-45 with 8:58 to play in regulation.
Muhammad scored in doubles figures for the 27th time this season in 28 games played. The freshman from Las Vegas enters the Pac-12 Tournament as UCLA's leading scorer (18.3 ppg).
The No. 1-seeded Bruins will return to action in a Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal contest on Thursday, March 14, against either No. 8-seed Stanford or No. 9-seed Arizona State at 12 p.m. UCLA last won the Pac-12 Tournament title in 2008.
Stanford will face Arizona State in a first-round matchup in Las Vegas on Wednesday at 12 p.m. This season's Pac-12 Tournament will be played at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.