Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He filed this column after Texas’ win over UCLA Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Things have been tough enough for the UCLA basketball team this season, without having its home court conspire against it. But, that’s exactly what happened Saturday afternoon as the Bruins hosted Texas at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, one of the temporary homes for UCLA this year as venerable old Pauley Pavilion undergoes much-needed renovations. Just after the under-four minute media timeout, as Longhorn forward Alexis Wangmene headed to the free throw line to shoot the front-end of a one-and-one, the entire arena was plunged into relative darkness due to an area-wide power surge. At that time, the Bruins were up 30-19 and had turned in its best 16-minute stretch of the season. Guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson had knocked down some threes. The Wear twins had been hitting the glass and scoring inside. And perhaps most importantly, the Bruins had been diving after loose balls, scrapping for every rebound, and defending like crazy, keeping the quicker Texas guards out of the lane – just generally outworking them to that point.
Over the next 13-plus minutes, as the lights slowly reset to full-power, Texas had a chance in their huddle to start over. “We had a chance to regroup,” said the Longhorns’ freshman point guard Myck Kabongo. “Thank god for those lights. It was a turning point.” Despite, as one fan yelled out just as play resumed, “the greatest icing ever,” Wangmene hit both his free throws and the Longhorns played the final four minutes of the half with a new zeal. Kabongo in particular was like a different player, easily getting penetration against UCLA guards and finding open teammates, notching his first three assists of the day on Texas’ last four possessions of the half. By the intermission, UT has posted a quick 9-4 mini-run and cut the Bruin lead, which had been double-digits most of the first half, to just six. From there, the second half was a mere formality. Texas posted a 75% effective field goal percentage in the second half, the talented but confounding UCLA frontcourt duo of Joshua Smith and Reeves Nelson combined to play just four minutes, and Texas outscored UCLA 50-29 after the power outage.