UCLA Freshman Jordan Adams single-handedly carries the Bruins, scoring 13 straight points to help the Bruins come back from an 11-point 2nd-Half deficit and beat Arizona for the third time this year, but breaks his foot on the final play of the game and is now out for the season
Jordan Adams had a horrible Offensive game on Thursday against Arizona State, going 2-for-12, and the Bruins struggled to fend off the underdog Sun Devils 80-75. Then on Friday, he started out 1-for-5, and it looked like he was just not adjusting to the pressure of postseason play. The Bruins trailed Arizona by 4 at Halftime, and that margin ballooned to 11 soon after the break. Then Adams finally ARRIVED. He made a couple of Free Throws to cut it to 9, then Shabazz Muhammad scored a couple of times, and the Bruins were back in contention. Then, Adams scored the Bruins’ next 13 consecutive points, leading to a 58-58 tie.
Adams scored 18 of his game-high 24 Points in the 2nd Half, WILLING the Bruins back into the game. They took the lead for the first time since early in the game with 3:11 left. The Wildcats came back to tie it up with just under a minute to go, so the Bruins of course ran a play for the on-fire Adams. Jordan MISSED a three-pointer, but fellow Freshman Kyle Anderson came up with a game-saving Offensive Rebound-Putback to put the Bruins back on top by 2, with 22 seconds left.
On the Cats’ final possession, Adams lunged to attempt a block of the potentially game-tying shot. He forced the shooter to alter AND MISS, the Bruins rebounded, and the game was theirs, 66-64. But when Adams landed from that lunge, he came down awkwardly on his foot, breaking a bone, and ending any hope the Bruins had of a miracle March Madness run.
UCLA’s roster is just not deep enough to overcome the loss of their starting Shooting Guard and one of their most potent Offensive threats. Jordan is also indispensable on Defense, leading the team in Steals by a wide margin. The Bruins only go 7 deep — 8 if you count the few minutes that Tony Parker can stay on the floor before getting yanked as a liability — so now role players David Wear and Norman Powell will have to play the games of their lives if the Bruins have any chance of beating good teams and making it to the Sweet Sixteen or further. Bruin fans who are still fantasizing about another Ben Howland Final Four run are now few and far between, and the word “fantasizing” would be very appropriate.
So at this point, it might be best to just relish the fact that the Bruins SWEPT highly-ranked rival Arizona in a rare THREE-PEAT, and just lament the fact that Adams is sadly going to miss the Big Dance, leaving UCLA to think of what coulda been. One serendipitous piece of fallout from the injury is now no one can call for Howland’s termination based on an early exit in the NCAA Tournament. How can you blame the Coach if the team can’t compensate for the loss of such a gifted and crucial component of their Starting five?
The Bruins’ NCAA Championship hopes may be realistically dead, but they still have a slim chance of taking the Pac-12 Tournament Title, as they face an Oregon team that lost to lowly Utah as well as Colorado last week. Maybe Powell will step up to fill the void created by Adams’ huge absence, and perhaps Muhammad and Anderson can play up to their potential for a FULL game, which neither has done yet in this postseason. But even the Bruins’ best effort — which COULD beat the Ducks — will probably not be enough to beat a Top 16 team the week after. Regardless, I would call this season a mild SUCCESS, and a demonstration of good Coaching that saw a young team improve markedly throughout the year, peaking at the right time, coming together as a unit to overcome extreme adversity and wipe out double-digit 2nd-Half deficits on back-to-back days in dramatic fashion. If only Muhammad would take a page out of Matt Barkley’s book, and agree to come back for another year, to complete some “unfinished business,” but UNLIKE Barkley, NOT SUCK AND FAIL MISERABLY in the attempt.