Bruins get run over by the Huskies
Joshua Smith was five minutes from a happy homecoming.
The UCLA freshman center had already logged a double-double in his return to the Pacific Northwest, sparking the Bruins to a four-point lead at a place they rarely win. His mother had an assist of sorts by distracting Washington players with shrieking sounds as they shot free throws.
“It’s a screech-slash-birdcall-slash-dying animal,” Smith said of the noise his mother made while seated behind the UCLA bench.
Ultimately, the Bruins were the ones who went limp in the final minutes Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena, surrendering 14 consecutive points during an eventual 70-63 loss that marked their seventh consecutive defeat here.
UCLA missed four consecutive shots and committed three turnovers in a 4-minute 17-second span, allowing the Huskies to transform a four-point deficit into a 63-53 lead with 1:38 remaining.
“It definitely seemed out of nowhere,” Bruins guard Jerime Anderson said of Washington’s 14-0 run. “I really don’t know what was going on at that time.”
He wasn’t the only UCLA player who seemed lost.
Holding a 53-49 lead, the Bruins left C.J. Wilcox open in transition and the red-hot Huskies guard hit a three-pointer that started Washington’s surge. Wilcox scored all of his career-high 24 points in the second half for the Huskies (20-9 overall, 11-6 Pac-10), who pulled to within a game of the Bruins (21-9, 12-5) in the conference standings with one game left in the regular season.
UCLA, which trails first-place Arizona by one game in the Pac-10, concludes conference play Saturday at Washington State.
The Bruins lost despite an inspired effort by Anderson, who scored all of his career-high 16 points in the second half. Smith finished with 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
Just about everything that could go wrong did for UCLA in the second half after the Bruins held Washington to 21.2% shooting on the way to taking a 25-24 halftime lead.
Junior guard Malcolm Lee sat out long stretches because of cramps, meaning UCLA Coach Ben Howland couldn’t put his best defender on Wilcox. The Bruins also ran out of timeouts with 12:57 remaining, in part because they had burned one when they had trouble getting the ball inbounds and used another to take Reeves Nelson out of the game late in the first half because of fatigue.
Things only deteriorated from there for Nelson, who had 10 points at halftime.
He missed all five of his second-half shots, committed a charging violation with UCLA holding a four-point lead and was called for a technical foul when he slapped the floor in frustration with 10:45 left.
Smith, the native of Kent, Wash., who spurned Washington for UCLA, shrugged off the mean-spirited chants that came his way throughout the game.
“They’re ignorant,” said Smith, who had 18 family members and friends in attendance. “They have to say whatever they have to say. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
Still, UCLA had the ball and a 53-49 lead with 5:39 remaining.
But Smith threw a pass that was intercepted, sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt traveled on the next possession and then Smith missed two consecutive putbacks, spurring Washington’s surge.
Howland conceded that the raucous atmosphere contributed to his team unraveling in the final minutes.
“It’s some of that,” he said. “But it’s March now.”
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