Shabazz Muhammad made a splash in his first collegiate start, but he and his UCLA teammates are still getting accustomed to each other.
The 11th-ranked Bruins will try to continue blending their highly touted freshman into the mix Sunday night against visiting Cal Poly.
Muhammad didn't get to spend the summer with his teammates during their tour of China because the NCAA discovered he accepted improper benefits while making unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina. The swingman also had to sit out the first three games this season and repay $1,600.
After initially suspending him indefinitely, the NCAA announced Nov. 16 that it was satisfied with its penalty and allowed him to return in time for the Legends Classic in Brooklyn.
Following a 15-point performance off the bench in Monday's 78-70 loss to Georgetown, Muhammad scored a game-high 21 on 6-of-12 shooting in his first start the next evening, helping the Bruins (4-1) edge Georgia 60-56. Travis Wear, with 10 points, was the only other Bruins player in double figures, as leading scorer Jordan Adams scored four - 15.6 fewer than his season average.
"I think he was more comfortable and we are learning how to play with Shabazz for the first time," coach Ben Howland said. "We didn't play with him all summer and then the same thing in a game situation until (Monday), so it's going to take some time but I thought he did a really good job."
Before facing No. 25 San Diego State on Dec. 1 in Anaheim, Howland's team will get a couple of opportunities to continue getting into a rhythm with Muhammad as it'll host the Mustangs (1-2) and Cal State Northridge on Wednesday.
"I am definitely looking to build more chemistry with the team and really getting my defensive game going as well as my offense," Muhammad said.
Muhammad and his teammates will next face a Cal Poly team that hasn't been too difficult to defend this season, averaging 59.0 points on 38.4 percent shooting. The Mustangs shot a season-best 47.1 percent Monday in a 76-67 loss to visiting Fresno State.
Their lone player averaging in double figures, junior forward Chris Eversley (14.3 points per game), scored a team-best 14 points after tallying a career-high 21 in a 64-53 win over Northern Colorado on Nov. 15.
Cal Poly has faced one other team ranked 11th or higher, losing 51-45 at then-No. 11 San Diego State on Dec. 13, 2010.
Two days before that game, they fell 72-61 at UCLA and dropped to 0-5 in the series.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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