PULLMAN, Wash. -- Maybe UCLA Coach Steve Alford can get a deal on a crate of mouthwash.
Point guard Kyle Anderson talked this week about writing a better finish to this season. A year ago, the Bruins lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament final and followed that up with an embarrassing loss to Minnesota in the first-round of the NCAA tournament.
“That left a lasting taste in our mouth,” Anderson said.
Time to rinse and spit again.
The Bruins saved their worst for last, losing to woeful Washington State, 73-55, in the Pac-12 regular-season finale Saturday at Beasley Coliseum. It was the Cougars largest victory over UCLA since beating the Bruins by 23 in 1937-38.
The Cougars (10-20 overall, 3-15 in Pac-12 play) were fighting to get out of last place. The Bruins (22-8, 12-6) were lining up their finishing kick, eying this week’s conference tournament.
“I don’t care what records are or what seedings are, these are grown men playing and there is so much parity,” Alford said. “If we had come back in the last few minutes and won, it would have been a shame because they outplayed us and they deserved to win.”
This was the fourth time that the Bruins have split a two-game road trip by losing the second game. At Stanford, after the previous road loss, when pressed on what the Bruins had to do to end that habit, Alford said “score more points.”
Maybe he should have written that down.
Anderson was asked if he could point to any reasons why the Bruins continue to stumble. He drew a blank.
“I’m not sure,” Anderson said. “I’m not sure what it is. I’m not sure."
The Bruins have had stinkers before this season. Nothing like this aroma.
The Cougars overcame a rough start and dominated, though some of their numbers could make you do a double-take.
Washington State shot 37% … and won.
The Cougars shot 66% from the free throw line … and won
DeVonte Lacy, who averages a team-high 19 points, had nine points … and the Cougars won.
It took a village ... and it took the Bruins.
Que Johnson and Ike Iroegbu each had 14 points for Washington State, while Dexter Kernich-Drew and D.J. Shelton each added 10.
But this wasn’t about whether the Cougars played well. They didn’t. It was how bad the Bruins played.
That UCLA shot 33% from the field was a starting point.
“When you don’t concentrate, you don’t deserve to win,” Alford said. “I thought that was poor as we have concentrated all year.
“The entire game, we did a poor job of concentrating. If you don’t concentrate at this level, you’re not going to make shots. You’re not going to make tough plays.”
This followed disturbing patterns with postseason play approaching.
UCLA has trailed at halftime in seven of their last 10 games. The Bruins talked in earnest about showing up focused for this one, stressing the importance of getting off to a fast start.
They did … for nearly four minutes. UCLA jumped to a 9-0 lead, holding the Cougars scoreless for the 3:22 to open the game. There ended the first-half highlights for the Bruins.
The Cougars led at halftime, 34-26.
The Bruins made four of their five shots to start, then they were two for 16 the rest of the half. They spread out their next four field goals over 24:04.
UCLA had eight turnovers by halftime, the last summed up their effort.
Zach LaVine took a pass and tried to shoot in one motion. Instead, the ball slipped out of his hands and went over his head into the first row.
Part of the problem? Anderson was in foul trouble. He spent eight minutes on the bench. The Bruins looked disorganized without him.
The Cougars closed the half on a 19-4 run, during which they made four three-pointers.
If the Bruins thought that the second half would be any better, they were sadly mistaken. Norman Powell was called for charging on UCLA’s first possession.
Iroegbu’s two free throws gave the Cougars a 58-41 lead with five minutes left. UCLA never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Anderson had 19 points to lead the Bruins, but he received little support. He needed five assists to become the first Pac-12 player to have 200 rebounds and 200 assists in one season. He finished with four assists.
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