The Huskies go into the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas as the No. 6 seed and will face WSU.
On Washington’s Senior Day, a trio of freshmen wearing powder blue spoiled the party at Alaska Airlines Arena and taught the Huskies a valuable lesson — out with the old and in with the new.
“It’s fun stealing people’s glory,” UCLA guard Jordan Adams said after handing the Huskies a 61-54 defeat in Pac-12 men’s basketball action Saturday. “It’s like beating up your big brother.”
Call them the Baby Bruins, a collection of high-school superstars who have restored some of the luster on a tarnished UCLA program that’s been embroiled in several off-court controversies in the past year and missed the 2012 NCAA tournament.
Led by freshmen Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Adams, UCLA overwhelmed a veteran Washington team that committed 19 turnovers, which led to 29 points for the Bruins.
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“They read situations, they anticipate and they’re long,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar. “They can get to a lot of balls. They can get to a lot of deflections. They’re quick. You’re dribbling the basketball and they tip from behind.
“They present problems for us in terms of taking care of the basketball. You have to give them credit. They’re good. … When those three get rolling, they’re pretty good.”
Saturday, UCLA was good enough to snap its eight-game losing streak in Seattle and lock up its first Pac-12 regular-season title since 2008. And the Bruins did it against Washington, the regular season champion last year.
“We struggled early and everybody slept on us and didn’t think we were going to win the Pac-12,” said Muhammad, who finished with 21 points and six rebounds. “They had Arizona and Oregon and just looked over us.
“We just came out and had a lot of effort. We just have a really good team.”
While the Bruins (23-8, 13-5 Pac-12) celebrated inside the visiting locker room, the Huskies (17-14, 9-9) were coming to grips with a new reality.
They need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to advance to the NCAAs or else they could return to the National Invitational Tournament, where they lost in the semifinals last year.
Washington is the No. 6 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and will play No. 11 Washington State on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in the first round at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. The winner will play No. 3 Oregon in the quarterfinals.
“Our thing is we have to mentally stay in it,” said junior guard C.J. Wilcox, who finished with eight points on 3-for-13 shooting. “Regardless of what happened (Saturday) it wasn’t going to change what we have to do in Las Vegas.
“We did some good things today. We have to focus on that.”
Scott Suggs led the way offensively for UW with 14 points, while Shawn Kemp Jr. added 10. Desmond Simmons finished with 11 rebounds and Aziz N’Diaye 10.
Washington had more rebounds (38-35), assists (12-10) and blocks (6-2).
The Huskies led 31-30 at halftime and controlled most of the second half.
However, Wilcox had a three-pointer rattle out of the bucket that would have put Washington up by seven with 5:15 left.
“It would have really been a crusher had it gone in,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “So thank you.”
Leading 52-48, the Huskies’ offense disintegrated and UCLA outscored UW 13-2 the rest of the way.
Washington missed jumpers and committed turnovers while Muhammad tied the game with a jumper at the 4:21 mark. He scored the next three points at the free-throw line to put UCLA ahead 55-52.
The Huskies blew a chance to narrow the gap on the next possession when N’Diaye missed a pass from Abdul Gaddy in the paint.
“I have to make that catch,” said N’Diaye. “It was right there. … Again our turnovers was the difference.”
After UCLA went up by five, Kemp flushed an alley-oop pass that cut UW’s deficit to 57-54.
Washington needed a stop on the next possession, but UCLA guard Larry Drew II, who had seven points and six assists, blew past Suggs at the top of the key and sailed in for a layup to push the Bruins’ lead to five.
Andrew Andrews committed another turnover seconds later, and Adams capped the scoring with two free throws on the ensuing play.
“We wanted to come in here and finish this season on a winning streak, so we gave a lot of effort today,” Suggs said. “It was fun; I wish we could have given the fans a win.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Percentages: FG .397, FT .778. Three-point goals: 1-10, .100 (Muhammad 1-2, T. Wear 0-1, D. Wear 0-2, Adams 0-5). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 2 (D. Wear, Drew II). Turnovers: 10 (Drew II 3, T. Wear 2, Anderson 2, Powell, Adams, D. Wear). Steals: 8 (Adams 4, Anderson 3, Drew II). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .411, FT .333. Three-point goals: 5-16, .313 (Suggs 2-5, Wilcox 2-8, Andrews 1-2, Gaddy 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 6 (Kemp, Jr. 2, N’Diaye 2, Simmons, Wilcox). Turnovers: 19 (Gaddy 4, Suggs 4, Wilcox 3, Jarreau 3, N’Diaye 2, Andrews, Simmons, Kemp, Jr.). Steals: 5 (Jarreau 2, Andrews, Suggs, Simmons). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 8,747. Officials: Chris Rastatter, Mike Scyphers, Justin Van Duyne.