On the last day of the year, it became obvious that these aren't the Washington Huskies of last season — at least not yet. The UCLA Bruins, however...
LOS ANGELES — On the last day of the year, it became obvious that these aren’t the Washington Huskies of last season — at least not yet.
The UCLA Bruins, however, approached Sunday as if they were still playing against the Huskies of a year ago.
As the No. 1-ranked Bruins easily dispatched of Washington 96-74 in front of 12,042 at Pauley Pavilion, it was the lasting image of UW’s victory here last January that drove them.
“They were popping their collars after they won — I still have that memory flashing in my mind,” said UCLA guard Michael Roll of Washington’s 69-65 victory almost a year ago.
“They came in here all flashy after the win. We remembered that so much when we came out. We didn’t want that to happen again so we played extra hard.”
UCLA scored the first eight points of the game to set an early tone, scored the last nine of the first half to take a 47-33 lead, then scored the first six of the second half to turn it into a rout.
“They just out-competed us the whole game,” said UW freshman forward Phil Nelson.
When it was over, UW had its worst setback since an 86-62 defeat against Gonzaga on Dec. 3, 2003, and fell into an 0-2 Pac-10 hole for the first time since that same 2003-04 season. And now comes Arizona to town Thursday night, and the specter of an 0-3 start in a conference that is the toughest it has been in years.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, however, said it was too soon to worry about the big picture.
“I’m not going ‘Oh no, we are in trouble, we are 0-2 and now we’ve got Arizona,’ ” he said. “We’ve been here before. Not with this young of a team. But a few years ago (the 2003-04 season) when we were 0-5, we had freshmen and sophomores.”
That team grew up fast, however, something this team now has to do after falling to 10-3 overall and possibly out of the top-25 rankings. All three defeats have come on the road, and in blowouts at Gonzaga and UCLA, a Washington team starting three freshmen and two sophomores has come out looking shell-shocked.
“It’s not what I expected,” Romar said. “I was disappointed that we didn’t bear down and get gritty for 40 minutes. I thought Spencer [Hawes] and Jon [Brockman] competed like crazy, and Phil came off the bench and competed like crazy. But as a team, overall, I didn’t think this was one of our more high-level intensity games.”
And with the Bruins wanting revenge for what the Huskies of Brandon Roy and company pulled off a year ago, it was a fatal mix.
UCLA junior guard Arron Afflalo scored 10 of UCLA’s first 20 points as the Bruins bolted to a double-digit lead. Afflalo equaled his career-high with 27 points.
He had 20 in the first half, which he capped with a long three-pointer with two seconds left to put the Bruins up by 14 points.
Washington’s offense, meanwhile, looked disjointed much of the game, with 13 turnovers in the first half and 22 overall. Hawes finished with 21 points, the sixth time in his past seven games he has topped the 20-point mark, but the Huskies rarely got much easily.
Washington’s defense was non-existent as UCLA shot a season-best 59.7 percent (40 for 67), including 72 percent (21 for 29) in the second half.
“I think they just played harder than us,” said Washington guard Justin Dentmon, who had just six points and four turnovers in 33 minutes. “We didn’t play hard early and match their intensity.”
Youth is a logical explanation for much of what ails the Huskies, but Nelson was among those who said that’s too easy of an excuse.
“We’ve played 13 games now,” he said. “We’re no longer a young team.”
Brockman, the team’s captain, said he thinks the Huskies are trying to do the right things, but that “maybe we take too much for granted and kind of expect things like the LSU game (an 88-72 victory at home Dec. 20) to just happen. When you look back at those games, we played a whole lot differently than we did tonight. The reason we played well was because everyone was playing hard, being in the spot they were supposed to be, and being focused.
“We got a good taste for what Pac-10 basketball is like. If our guys had any doubt whatsoever about what Pac-10 basketball is like, we just got slapped in the face.”
UCLA 96, Washington 74
California at Stanford, 7 p.m.
Arizona at Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Arizona State at Washington, 7 p.m.
UCLA at Oregon State, 7 p.m.
USC at Oregon, 5:30 p.m.