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Improved Huskies Next for Struggling Bruins

Times Staff Writer

UCLA, which needed a last-second shot by Trevor Wilson Thursday night to beat Washington State, probably won’t find the going much easier today against Washington in Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Including an 84-75 victory over USC Thursday night, the Huskies have won 4 of their last 6 games, and the 2 losses were by 2 points to Stanford and by 1 to Oregon State at Corvallis, Ore.

Considering that they opened play in the Pacific 10 Conference last month with a 116-61 loss at Arizona and then lost 2 nights later at Arizona State, 121-90, the Huskies may be the most improved team in the conference.

“This might be a crossroads game for us--to decide if we’re going to be a contender or an also-ran,” UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said Friday.

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Washington is 7-9 overall and 4-4 in the Pac-10.

UCLA, meanwhile, is 11-5 and 6-2, but continues to struggle. The Bruins, who have split their last 6 games, were out-played by a poor Washington State team before overcoming a 10-point deficit in the last 5 1/2 minutes.

“It was ugly,” Harrick said of the 64-63 victory at Pullman, Wash., which was not assured until Wilson rebounded his own missed shot and scored on a layup as time ran out.

Washington State, which had lost its previous 3 games by 42, 18 and 27 points, went into the game ranking last in the Pac-10 in scoring and shooting percentage, but the Cougars’ slowdown tactics enabled them to build a 13-point second-half lead against the uninspired Bruins.

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“We only performed for about 5 minutes,” Harrick said.

That turned out to be enough, though, when Washington State’s Brian Quinnett failed to screen Wilson off the board after the UCLA forward had lofted an 8-foot jump shot from the baseline.

“I jumped with him when he took the shot, but as soon as I turned, he knew it was short and he stepped around me,” Quinnett said. “There’s no excuse for not boxing him out.”

And there’s no excuse for UCLA’s poor play, Harrick said.

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“We just haven’t executed, offensively or defensively, and it’s time to call a halt to that,” Harrick said. “I know what will happen if we continue to do that. You can only get out of the fire so often.”

Bruin Notes

Washington, which uses three juniors and two sophomores in its starting lineup, will be among the favorites to win the Pacific 10 Conference championship next season, UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said this week. . . . Eldridge Recasner, a 6-foot 2-inch junior guard, had 25 points and 6 assists against USC and leads the Huskies in scoring with a 16.8 average.

Washington’s Dion Brown, a 6-5 forward from Los Angeles Crenshaw High, had career highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds in a 71-70 victory over Oregon last week and is averaging 12.4 points a game. . . . UCLA made only 15 of 25 free throws against Washington State.

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