Mush! Mush! Mustafa Abdul-Hamid muzzles the Huskies with a buzzer-beating dagger that’s a real tail-wagger
Just call him Pauley Abdul.
No matter how you Judge it, former Walk-On Mustafa Abdul-Hamid is like an American Idol winner in Westwood tonight, as his last-second twenty-footer sent the Huskies packing, to Siberia South (Galen, where players go to rot and die in obscurity), with a heartbreaking, 62-61 loss. After Michael Roll’s two Free Throws gave the Bruins a 1-point lead with 7.6 seconds left, Washington’s Venoy Overton went coast-to-coast, beating his man Abdul-Hamid, and blowing by Roll to drop in a lay-up with 3.2 seconds left. But instead of panicking, Roll grabbed the ball, did a thorough scan of the court, and then inbounded it to Abdul-Hamid near halfcourt. Abdul-Hamid dribbled to the top of the key – as teammate Malcolm Lee went by him — and coolly (despite the clock) faked his defender out of his jockstrap, and then swished the open jumper as the horn sounded.
Abdul-Hamid gave a little fist-pump, and was then mobbed by teammates and fans. This isn’t the first time he’s been the hero in Pauley Pavilion — During the preseason, he beat Concordia with a similar last-second shot.
Abdul-Hamid was playing because Jerime Anderson was in street clothes with a hip flexor injury. But Mustafa didn’t start. Lee, Roll, Tyler Honeycutt, Nikola Dragovic, and James Keefe started. Keefe was not effective on Offense, and gave way to Reeves Nelson, who WAS. Nelson was extremely effective in the paint, ending up with a team-leading 16 Points. He also grabbed 6 Rebounds, but that DIDN’T lead the Bruins. That honor goes to Honeycutt, who grabbed 8 Boards, to go along with 10 Points and 4 very impressive Assists. This was by far Honeycutt’s best game as a Bruin. Before the contest, he said that his health was finally back, and he felt as good as he has all season… and it showed. Honeycutt went 4-for-4 from the floor, including 2 three-pointers.
Without Honeycutt, the Bruins get killed in this game, because neither Roll nor Dragovic ever got it going. Roll was obviously still smarting from his abdominal injury, and really gutted it out in the end to make those two crucial free throws (after missing two of two earlier in the 2nd half). Roll ended with 8 Points, 4 Rebounds, 2 Assists, and 2 Turnovers, and he must have been pretty happy when Mustafa hit the game-winner, because Roll was just standing there, right near the basket, as Overton drove past him (after having left Abdul-Hamid in the dust) and gave the Huskies the lead.
Dragovic was definitely more aggressive, fulfilling a vow he made in the Press, but he missed his only 2 three-point shots, and scored only 11 Points (with 5 Rebounds). But it was Honeycutt, Nelson, and a little bit o’ Lee that carried the Bruins all night.
The Bruins played Zone Defense all forty minutes, because there is no way that they could have prevented Guard penetration in the Man-to-Man. And in the 1st half, it didn’t really work. Well, it did in a way — It forced the Huskies to shoot from outside. But the Huskies were HOT from outside, shooting 58% from the floor, including 6-12 from behind the arc, led by Quincy Pondexter, who had 15 at the break.
The Bruins got off to a quick start, racing out to a 6-0 lead, but gave up the next 7. It was close for the whole half, with an 8-0 Husky spurt allowing them to take the lead, and go into the Intermission with a 41-37 advantage. They led for the first 12 minutes of the 2nd half, but their hot shooting went cold. The Defense that allowed 41 in the 1st half allowed only 20 in the 2nd, as they held UW to 30% shooting. The Bruins took the lead with around 7:20 to go, at which point the Huskies had made only 4 of 20 Field Goal attempts since the break. But then they made 4 of their next 7, as the game stayed tight.
With 5 and a half minutes left, Honeycutt made the best move of his college career, faking a man out with good footwork, and getting to the hoop for a lay-in that put the Bruins up 52-49. Then Honeycutt made another one of his beautiful dishes inside to Nelson, who made his Free Throws to make it 54-49, topping off an 8-0 Bruin run. But the Huskies came back, behind Pondexter. They tied it at 56, on a Nelson Goaltending call, with 2:40 left. Then Pondexter hit his 4th 3 of the game, putting UW up 59-56. But Nelson countered by powering to the bucket for a tough lay-in.
The Bruins, still down by one with 30 seconds left, intentionally fouled Isaiah Thomas, who missed the front end of the one-and-one (a concept Steve Physioc apparently does not comprehend), after the great shooter had previously sunk all three of his attempts.
So the Bruins called time out with 18 seconds left. On their possession, Lee had the ball, almost lost it, then dished to Roll, who was fouled trying to get to the basket. And, with 7.6 seconds left, he made his Free Throws, thanks to a lucky bounce on the second one, and if you have read this article from the start, THAT’S WHERE YOU CAME IN. Roll’s Free Throws, Overton’s Tribute to Edney, and then Abdul-Hamid’s ONE SHINING SECOND.
The Pac-10 Standings have every single team between 4-2 and 2-4, so the regular season Title is still up for grabs. usc blew a double-digit lead at home against the Cougars, so they join the Bruins at 3-3, although they hold the tie-breaker (I know, don’t remind you). So the trojans are now 1-3 since the announcement of the self-imposed sanctions, getting “UP” only for UCLA. So, if they fall off the map, the Bruins have a chance. UCLA has now already beaten Cal (at Cal!) and Washington, and on paper, those two were supposed to be the best in the Conference.
So the roller-coaster season continues. Some fans wanted to tear down Pauley after the humilation last week, but now some of those same fans are talking about winning the Pac-10 Title. At least the disgust with Ben Howland (by a small minority of “fans”) should subside: It is now obvious that a healthy Honeycutt from Day One would have single-handedly prevented this season’s nightmare beginning. The team still would have struggled more than in past seasons, but nothing like what has actually transpired. And if you add to that Anderson’s nagging injury, Keefe’s shoulder injury, Nelson’s eye injury, Morgan’s knee injury, and Drew Gordon’s Brain injury, it is advisable to grant Howland a little leeway. Not to mention reaching 3 straight Final Fours and successfully recruiting 2 straight Gatorade Players of the Year.
Speaking of quenching your thirst, here are 22 photos of the UCLA Spirit Squad. I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I’ve showered you with their magnificence, but there hasn’t been anything to “celebrate” in a while. As always, all the photos enlarge when you click on them, and if you want to see the hidden caption, just use your mouse to place the cursor on the photo, and a box should pop up. If it disappears before you read it, just move the cursor off the pic, then back on it, and the caption should re-appear. Note: Apparently, not all browsers support this feature, so Good Luck. But you’re probably not missing too much. I save the better lines for the headlines and the body of the article, and the more esoteric, less clever (!) material gets slid in there as a hidden caption.