Two days after lauding his team’s fight in coming from behind to defeat Washington State, UCLA head coach Ben Howland again praised the Bruins’ resolve against Washington.
The only difference?
On Wednesday, the Bruins delivered a knockout blow.
On Friday, they could only manage to knock the Huskies down but not out, unable to claw all the way back despite second-half charge in a 74-63 loss at Pauley Pavilion that snapped a six-game winning streak.
UCLA shot just 35 percent for the game and 69 percent from the free-throw line, while Washington shot 50 percent on field goals and 80 percent on free throws.
“We were 12-for-19 and those foul shots, if you’re going to beat the team picked to win the conference, you have to shoot 80 percent, 85 percent,” Howland said. “We did a better job getting it in the second half, but we took a couple of questionable shots late.”
Washington broke a close game wide open to end the first half, turning a 31-29 lead with just over two minutes left into a seven-point halftime advantage.
The Huskies’ roll continued into the second half as the Bruins went stagnant on offense, committing two shot clock violations in the first four minutes.
Washington stretched its lead to 17 with 14 minutes, nine seconds left in the half before UCLA finally awakened from its coma.
The Bruins went on a 16-3 run to cut the Husky lead to four with 9:36 left, and hung around for the next several minutes.
Down by six, a 3-point attempt by junior forward Tyler Honeycutt rimmed in-and-out with 3:32 left, Husky junior forward Darnell Gant hit a back-breaking 3-pointer of his own on the other end – Gant’s lone attempt from behind the arc – and the Bruins got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
“We’re down three, we’re one possession away,” Honeycutt said. “We just got lost. We knew Darnell was shooting the three well this year and he knocked it down.”
Honeycutt’s errant attempt was far from unusual, as it wasn’t Washington’s well-balanced offense that threw off the Bruins, but its tenacious defense.
Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson was the only Bruin to shoot better than 50 percent, almost single-handedly bringing the team back late in the game while finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Malcolm Lee and Honeycutt each added 12 points.
UCLA made just two-of-11 3-pointers, a paltry 18 percent, while struggling to find any offensive rhythm at times.
While the Bruins (9-5, 1-1) were busy dribbling down the shot clock or passing it around the perimeter, Washington was taking it to the hole. All of the Huskies.
Six Huskies scored more than six points, led by forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning’s 21 points and 10 rebounds and Isaiah Thomas’ 17 points and nine assists. Washington (10-3, 2-0) shot 50 percent for the game and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, UCLA’s Tyler Lamb, Jerime Anderson and Brendan Lane and Lazeric Jones – who suffered a dislocated finger during the game and played just 16 minutes – combined for five points in 74 minutes on zero-for-11 shooting.
“It was hard with the foul trouble and Zeke ended up getting hurt,” Honeycutt said. “We both have a good bench, it just went in their favor this game.”
UCLA is now on a nine-day break, picking things back up with a Jan. 9 matchup with USC at the Galen Center before the team’s first conference road trip, with games at Oregon State on Jan. 13 and Jan. 15. Howland said he didn’t even realize the Trojans were up next for UCLA after having two days to focus on the conference-favorite Huskies.
“We’re trying to win our next game,” Howland said. “That’s our goal right now. We’re back on the road again now. We’re on the road for two weeks. I wasn’t even thinking USC was our next game until after this game. I’m trying to focus on now.”