- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- At long last, the UCLA Bruins resembled the team everyone thought they would be.
The first six weeks of the season have brought nothing but big question marks for UCLA, with bad losses, ugly wins and unimpressive performances taking the luster off a team that had been pegged as a contender for a Final Four run after landing the nation’s top recruiting class.
A 97-94 overtime victory over No. 7 Missouri Friday night at Pauley Pavilion should help calm the storm that has surrounded coach Ben Howland, who has found his way to the hot seat, and the Bruins, who before Friday seemed to be underachieving.
This was UCLA’s first victory over a ranked team and first victory of the season that would be considered respectable by the nation. That it came in a nationally televised game and in thrilling fashion means it will receive notice and should get the Bruins (10-3) back into the top 25, where they began the season.
“I think our play definitely answered a lot of those questions,” guard Kyle Anderson said. “This is such a big win for us, and we can’t go back to those losses from before. We certainly showed the country what we have right now.”
Early on, the Bruins hadn’t shown the country much. They started with a good victory over Indiana State, but struggled against UC Irvine. Then came a loss to Georgetown, an ugly win over Georgia and a dreadful home loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith transferred and it seemed the program was in shambles. The Bruins steadily improved and won four in a row, but critics pointed to a soft schedule. Friday’s victory over Missouri (10-2) extended UCLA’s win streak to five and, more importantly, restored order.
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