A strange and sometimes harsh season, when UCLA's every step has been thoroughly dissected, reached this point late Wednesday night:
Coach Ben Howland publicly lauded the media.
Talking about his four freshmen, Howland said, "The media got it right. They are the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation."
Of course, whether the Bruins were No. 1 or No. 2 depended upon which website was cited. And calling those who handicap recruiting the "media" might be a stretch. But why quibble?
The freshmen were freshmen in name only in a 79-74 overtime victory over Arizona State that left UCLA temporarily tied for first place with Oregon in the Pac-12 Conference. The Ducks play Oregon State on Thursday night. UCLA plays 11th-ranked Arizona on Saturday.
Freshmen Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad combined for 64 of the 79 points against Arizona State. And Tony Parker, the only one of the four who doesn't start, lent a body. He used his 6-foot-9, 275-pound frame to muscle around Arizona State's 7-2 center, Jordan Bachynski.
Muhammad was asked about Howland's assessment of the recruiting class and said, "He's absolutely right."
Then Muhammad praised Parker, who played 10 minutes and scored only two points.
Parker made life miserable for Bachynski, who had 22 points and 15 rebounds when the Sun Devils trampled the Bruins, 78-60, last month. He had 10 points and seven rebounds Wednesday.
Parker's only points came after an offensive rebound, and the put-back tied the score, 52-52.
"Tony came up big-time again," said Muhammad, who had 21 points. "That rebound he got was huge."
As for the rest of the freshmen, Muhammad said, "We're here to do a job, and I thought we did a good job."
Anderson had a career-high 21 points. He also had a team-high 15 rebounds as the Bruins held their own on the boards. Arizona State had a 53-33 rebound advantage in the teams' first meeting, but only a 46-43 edge Wednesday.
With UCLA leading, 73-72 in overtime, Anderson got two offensive rebounds on one possession and was fouled. He made the free throws. Muhammad had seven rebounds and Adams six.
"You can talk about points, but I'm more excited about the rebounds," Howland said. "That's been our Achilles' heel."
Adams had a team-high 22 points. He scored the last four in overtime, two on a short jumper and two free throws with 26 seconds left.
"I think being so deep into the season, we were ready for this," Anderson said. "Down the stretch, I told the team, 'Stay calm through the storm.' We are definitely a better team than we were in December."
Muhammad suffered a minor sprained left ankle against Arizona State. It was a follow-up to his bout with pinkeye, from which he is still recovering.
Asked about the ankle, Muhammad said, "It's good. I tweaked it a little bit in the first half. Fortunately, it was taped pretty good. I'll be fine. I'll be ready for Arizona."
Howland said Travis Wear could be back for the Arizona game. Wear has missed two games because of a sprained right foot.