UCLA falls to Washington, 74-63

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.”

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Back on the Grind

UCLA doesn’t need a wake-up call for its wake-up call.

The Bruins are learning hard and fast the harsh realities of the Pac-10 season, as just a day after beating Washington State at Pauley Pavilion, 80-71, they are preparing for conference-favorite Washington, which needed overtime to survive at USC on Wednesday, 73-67.
“We’re the only BCS conference in the country that plays Thursday-Saturday, Wednesday-Friday,” head coach Ben Howland said on Thursday during a conference call with reporters. “It’s just harder. It’s harder for everybody. I was going to bed at 1 in the morning, and 36 hours later, we have another game.

“The Huskies could present a bigger difficulty for UCLA, given their overall offensive strength. While the Cougars were top-heavy with the Pac-10′s leading scorer in Klay Thompson (22.6 points per game) and key backup Faizel Aden (16.3 ppg), Washington’s scoring distribution trickles down to the far end of the bench.

The Huskies sport one of the conference’s most electric scoring guards in Isaiah Thomas (15.3 ppg) and get consistent production from forwards Matthew Bryan-Amaning (14.2 ppg) and Justin Holiday (12.5 ppg), but 10 players average more than five points through 12 games.

“They have a number of players,” Howland said. “They can play big, which is how they start, then they can go smaller when they go (Darnell) Gant or (Justin) Holiday to the four. They have a lot of depth in the backcourt, and the thing that’s really impressive is how they can shoot the three.”

UCLA predictably let Thompson and Aden get theirs on Wednesday – Thompson leading all scorers with 26 points and Aden adding 19 – but the Bruins limited all other Cougars. Forward DeAngelo Casto had eight points, forward Brock Motum five, and point guard Reggie Moore had just five points after scoring 24 last season at Pauley Pavilion.

“I thought our play against Reggie Moore was fantastic,” Howland said. “He only had five points; that is really stunning. We did a really nice job. I feel really good about that win last night because I have a lot of respect about that team and what they’ve already done this season.”

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Best of Times, Worst of Times

Talk about highs and lows – UCLA’s two 2009-10 matchups with Washington ran the team through the gauntlet of emotions.
The Bruins home matchup with the Huskies on Jan. 21 ended with a thrill, a buzzer-beating jump shot at the top of the key by former guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid that gave UCLA the 62-61 win.
Just over a month later the Huskies turned their final home game of the season into a Quincy Pondexter celebration, as he was showered with constant adulation while scoring 20 points in a 97-68 win.
The 29-point loss was Howland’s worst as head coach at UCLA.
“That was a huge win obviously to beat that at home,” Howland said. “We had no timeouts left, which was probably a good thing, and Mustafa hit that shot. Then out there, we really played terrible. It was like a going-away part for Pondexter, who had a great career. That was really the low point of the season for us.”

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Healthy Respect

Howland was incredulous that the 9-3 Huskies, the preseason pick to win the Pac-10 by the media and the only team to be in the top-25 this season, were not still ranked.
Washington, coming off a 73-67 overtime win at USC on Wednesday, has three losses to now-ranked teams.
“I find it really really surprising that they’re still not nationally ranked,” Howland said. “Their three losses are at Texas A&M, which is in the top-20, Michigan State and Kentucky at neutral sites. They are very, very good. They should be ranked, and I really don’t understand.”

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UCLA trails 37-29 at the half

For about 13 minutes, everything was golden for UCLA against Washington State.

The Bruins had good ball movement, shots were falling, and they held Cougars hot scorer Klay Thompson relatively in check.

Then the game stopped on a dime, pivoted, and went directly in Washington State’s direction.

The Cougars lead by eight at the half as Thompson caught fire late, finishing the half with 14 points, while teammate Faizel Aden has nine. Malcolm Lee leads UCLA with 13 points, Reeves Nelson has eight, but no other Bruin has more than two.

UCLA could only maintain a steady lead early in the first half, keeping the Cougars at arms length, unable to clamp down defensivley on the talented Washington State scorers.

The game turned with just less than seven minutes left in the first half and the Bruins leading 22-20. Thompson, who leads the conference in scoring at 22.3 points per game, hit a out-from-nowhere running 3-pointer to give the Cougars’ their first lead of the game, spurring a 15-2 run.

Of bigger concern for the Bruins is Joshua Smith’s early trouble, as he picked up three in the first half, including two on offense.

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