It was to be a celebration of UCLA basketball. They were opening New Pauley Pavilion, complete with the newly unveiled statue of legendary coach John Wooden. There were numerous Bruin greats on hand for the festivities, as Lucius Allen, Marques Johnson, Rod Foster, Reggie Miller, Don MacLean, Ed O’Bannon and Wooden’s great-grandson Tyler Trapani were all introduced in the lead-up to tipoff, while others like Tyus Edney (the UCLA basketball director of operations), Baron Davis, Cedric Bozeman, Dijon Thompson and even former head coach Jim Harrick were spotted as well. Outside they were projecting footage of past great UCLA contests (I spied some of the ’73 national championship game) on the front façade of the building. Heck, even the choice of opponent was a nod toward the past, as Indiana State is the only other head coaching job Wooden ever held. The cheerleaders and the band helped Chancellor Gene Block welcome the fans in and all was grand in UCLA land, as aside from the sparkling new facilities, the Bruins were welcoming in a talented batch of newcomers with a load of expectations upon them.
Then, shortly after the doors opened to let the fans in and take a poke around, athletic director Dan Guerrero met with the media and issued a statement announcing the NCAA decision declaring Shabazz Muhammad ineligible. While expected, the timing of the announcement cast something of a pall over the party. Then the game started. And it got worse. UCLA scored two points in its first seven possessions and 36 points in a 37-possession first half. Freshman phenom Kyle Anderson missed a handful of layups, a pair of free throws, and got beat off the bounce a couple of times. He did, however, deliver a couple of deft passes in the lane, each of which led to a blown layup. The Wear twins combined to remind everybody of their propensity to miss bunnies, Larry Drew II was largely invisible, and a crowd that was pumped just before tip-off sat on their hands and yawned.