Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes combined for 33 points and 28 rebounds and led Washington to its biggest win of the season, a 61-51 upset of No. 2 UCLA today.
The Washington Huskies have insisted for weeks they can still be an NCAA Tournament men’s basketball team.
Today, Washington finally looked like one, beating second-ranked UCLA 61-51 in front of a raucous crowd of 10,000 at Edmundson Pavilion.
“We know now we can beat anybody in the conference,” said Washington center Spencer Hawes after the Huskies completed a weekend sweep of two of the top three teams in the Pac-10, having beaten USC 85-70 on Thursday night.
The Huskies (18-12 overall, 8-10) did it Saturday by dominating the Pac-10 regular-season champs on the boards (44-29), holding the Bruins to 31.3 percent shooting (20-64), and staving off a late UCLA run that saw a 16-point lead with 9:34 left vanish to just one with just under three minutes left.
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But unlike some other notable games this season, this time it was the Huskies making the plays down the stretch, outscoring UCLA 9-0 in the final 2:57 to hold on.
“I’m not sure we would have been able to do that a month and a half ago,” said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. “But our guys weathered the storm and really came together.”
Leading the way was UW’s inside tandem of Hawes and Jon Brockman. Hawes had 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds while Brockman scored 20 points with 13 rebounds.
“Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes were just beasts today,” Romar marveled “Twin beasts.”
Said UCLA coach Ben Howland, who tried to recruit both players: “They were outstanding inside. Brockman and Hawes are great players.”
Washington played its last home game of the season, and senior reserves Hans Gasser and Brandon Burmeister got their first starts of the year — and the first of Gasser’s career.
The Huskies rode that emotion to an early 9-0 lead as UCLA (26-4, 15-3) missed its first seven shots with two turnovers.
“We started off bad and when you’re playing a team as good as I think the Huskies are, you have to come out and have good starts,” Howland said.
The Bruins had clinched the regular-season Pac-10 title with an emotional win in Pullman on Thursday night. UCLA players resisted talk of a letdown, but admitted their energy wasn’t what it needed to be.
“We played with intensity Thursday night,” said UCLA guard Arron Afflalo. “We didn’t today.”
UCLA trailed the entire game, but closed the gap late in the first half and again late in the second. Each time the Huskies responded.
Ahead 21-20 with 5:51 left in the first half, UW scored the last 10 points of the first half to take a 31-20 lead at halftime. Brockman and Ryan Appleby each had eight points in the first half and Hawes had seven, while UCLA’s guard tandem of Afflalo and Darren Collison was a combined 1-10.
A long Appleby three-pointer gave UW a 48-32 lead with 9:34 left in the game and brought the crowd to a frenzy as he backpedaled downcourt still extending his hand high.
The Bruins called time out, and for the first time all day, finally looked like the No. 2 team in the country. Afflalo hit two shots to close the lead to 48-37, then after the Huskies scored on a Quincy Pondexter jumper, UCLA ripped off 11 in a row to cut the lead to 50-48 with 4:30 left, keyed by three-pointers by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Josh Shipp.
“We turned the ball over too much and let them have some easy baskets,” Romar said.
After Justin Dentmon hit two free throws, Darren Collison made a three-pointer with 2:57 left to make it 52-51.
Hawes, however, steadied things with a tip-in at the 2:33 mark, and UCLA’s Josh Shipp missed a long-three-pointer on the other end.
Appleby missed with about 1:25 left, but a Collison drive at around the 1:10 mark was stopped when Dentmon and Hawes blocked his shot and knocked the ball off Collison out of bounds.
That capped a frustrating day for Collison, who was 2 of 15 going up against the improved defense of Dentmon.
His backcourt mate Afflalo, regarded as maybe the conference Player of the Year, wasn’t much better, going 4-14 with 12 points while defended most of the day by Appleby.
The Huskies then made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 37 seconds to seal the win.
“I just can’t say how proud I am of our guys,” Romar said. “It’s a joy to watch, as we’ve had our struggles this year — we’ve been up and down — to see things perhaps start to come together.”
The game ended with Gasser and Burmeister inserted back into the game, then removed for standing ovations, and the crowd lingered long afterward, not wanting to let go of the Huskies now that they are beginning to play like the team everyone envisioned .
UW now heads to the Pac-10 Tournament for a first-round game Wednesday night against Arizona State.
The Huskies are the No. 7 seed and will have to win four games in four days to win the tournament and get an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. That likely is the only way the Huskies can get into March Madness.
And after Saturday, that scenario suddenly seemed a lot more possible.
“It swings the momentum back in our favor,” Hawes said. “It proves to use that we can beat the best in the league on any given night.”