Huskies Collapse Down the Stretch

Washington wasted a fantastic overall effort down the stretch as they fell to UCLA on Saturday 75-69 at the LA Sports Arena. Although the Huskies seemed to be in full control for most of the game they could never put their foot down to increase the lead, which allowed the Bruins to hang around and ultimately steal the victory.

With 35 seconds left and the Huskies down just a deuce, Head Coach Lorenzo Romar called timeout and elected to run the clock down instead of expanding the game after a potential miss, something he tried to do a possession earlier but a Terrence Ross shot from close range couldn't connect.

Senior Darnell Gant took an uncontested three-point shot which would have given the Huskies a one-point lead with about ten seconds left, but instead it clanked off the rim. After a mad scramble for the rebound, UCLA came away with the ball and with 4.5 seconds left, Laezeric Jones sealed the win for the Bruins on his Senior Day.

The Bruins (17-13, 10-7) were led by the 20 points of Jones, while Travis Wear added 16 points and Tyler Lamb 14. Wear had a double-double with 10 rebounds to go with his points.

Sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox paced Washington (21-9, 14-4) with 22 points, while Ross chipped in 18 and freshman Tony Wroten 14 for the Huskies, who had a chance to win the Pac-12 regular season championship outright Saturday.

And for the first 29 minutes of the game Washington's offense was nearly unstoppable, shooting 51 percent from the field. But after a Wroten lay-up with 11 minutes left the Huskies went 3-15 from the field for the rest of the game.

Recently the Dawgs have used solid defense to get them through some rough shooting patches, but UCLA had their way - especially on the glass, where they out-rebounded Washington 38-35.

After starting out 8-14 from three-point land, UW continued to cast up shots and ended up finishing 1-8 from long-distance. UCLA was able to corral defensive rebounds while Washington could not. The epitome of the last portion of the game came when the game was tied with under a minute to play. After a Bruin miss from three, UCLA came down with two offensive rebounds before Travis Wear's twin brother David finished on a put-back with 44 seconds remaining.

That tip-in proved to be the winning basket.

What may get lost in the shuffle is that Abdul Gaddy played one of his better games of his Husky career. He ran the show extremely effectively, dishing to Ross and Wilcox time after time for open looks. The junior from Tacoma finished with a career-high 12 assists. The loss will ultimately undermine Gaddy's performance, but what should not go unnoticed is that he was the catalyst in helping the Huskies earn assists on 20 of their 27 field goals.

Conventional wisdom says the Huskies should be solidly in the NCAA tournament with 21 wins; however this is not a conventional year in the Pac-12. In an extremely down year for the league, the Huskies - who assured themselves of nothing less than a co-regular season championship after their Thursday night win over USC - may need to advance to at least the Championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament next week to assure themselves a ticket to the Big Dance.

The California Golden Bears now have a chance to tie Washington as regular season Pac-12 Champions tomorrow with a win when they take on rival Stanford at Maples Pavilion. The game will also decide seeding between Washington and California for the Pac-12 Tournament. Should the Golden Bears win, Cal holds the tiebreaker with the Huskies and will earn the number one seed next week in Los Angeles.

While the loss to UCLA will be a tough pill to swallow, the Huskies have bigger issues at hand. Sure the outright championship may be out the window, but the Huskies are still in a great position to win their third straight conference tournament. Even with the Saturday slip-up, Washington is playing some of their best basketball of the season and the team is peaking at the right time.

Perhaps the loss will be a blessing in disguise, fueling the Huskies' motivation to maintain better focus, especially in crunch time, as they now approach their first "one and done" scenario. It will be up to upperclassmen like Gant and Gaddy to respond to this setback and take the lead.
Statistics:
Points: Wilcox 22, Ross 18, Wroten 14, N'Diaye 7, Gaddy 5, Gant 2, Simmons 1
Rebounds: Gant 10, N'Diaye 6, Wilcox 5, Ross 4, Wroten 3, Kemp 1, Simmons 1
Assists: Gaddy 12, Wroten 5, Gant 2, N'Diaye 1
Steals: Ross 4, Gaddy 3, N'Diaye 1, Wroten 1, Gant 1
Blocks: Wroten 1

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