Marcus Tsohonis came off the bench and poured in 22 points — all in the second half — while draining a career-high six three-pointers.
The backup guard carried the Washington men’s basketball team, which pushed UCLA, ranked No. 24 in the coaches poll, until the final minute before falling 64-61 on Saturday night at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“Marcus has that ability to score,” UW men’s coach Mike Hopkins said. “Once he was hot, it was fire. He really helped us in this game to have a chance to win for sure.”
Tsohonis, who missed all three field-goal attempts and played just five minutes in the first half, canned 7 of 12 shots in the second half in 19 minutes.
“At the beginning of the game I had a couple of rough plays and missed a couple of my shots,” said Tsohonis, who has scored at least 20 points as a reserve three times this season. “I just stayed confident and once one of them went down, I had it going.”
With Tsohonis leading the way, Washington recovered from a 10-point deficit midway in the second half and tied it 57-57 with 2:47 remaining.
The Huskies were down 61-57 in the final minute and pulled to within 61-60 after Erik Stevenson’s three-pointer with 38 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, UCLA guard Jules Bernard (14 points) drained a long, contested jumper over Stevenson before both teams traded a free throw to set up one last chance for Washington.
Down three points with 3.6 seconds on the clock, Quade Green (14 points) retrieved a missed free throw before racing up the court near the UW bench and launching a long, off-balanced three-pointer at the buzzer that bounced off the rim.
It was the fifth straight loss for Washington (3-16, 2-12 Pac-12), while UCLA (14-5, 10-3) snapped a two-game skid.
“When you’re playing a team of this caliber, you got to do better,” Hopkins said. “It’s all about execution. We got some decent shots. For the most part, we were in foul trouble, which doesn’t always help, but you need to get stops and you need to be able to score and we broke down a couple of times.
“And then offensively, we didn’t execute to the ability that we normally do when we’re playing well. It’s all about executing late in games on both ends of the floor. Tonight we just came up a little bit short.”
Washington, which ranks last in the Pac-12 while allowing 81.8 points in conference, had given up 70 points in 11 straight games before its last two outings, including Thursday’s 69-54 loss to USC.
But once again, the Huskies were undone by an inconsistent offense performance. Washington sank 10 of 21 three-pointers, but shot 36.2% from the field, including 11 of 37 in the paint.
Tsohonis and Green combined for 36 points while everyone else had 25.
“I don’t really get too big of a head,” Tsohonis said when asked about his second-half outburst. “I just kind of play my game. I’m grateful that my guys were finding me with transition looks. I just try to figure out how to win the game.”
But as good as Tsohonis was, UCLA’s Johnny Juzang was even better while scoring a career-high 32 points — the most points in a Pac-12 game this season.
Washington, which rotated from its 2-3 zone to a matchup zone, had no defense for the 6-foot-6 sophomore guard who shot over every defender while connecting on 12 of 23 field goals, including five three-pointers.
“He’s a great shooter,” Hopkins said. “He had a big game recently. He was hot. What we’re doing is a little bit of an adjustment. We’re going with a little bit of a matchup (zone) and that takes a lot of communication.
“We broke down in communication a couple of times, and they capitalized on it. You got to give Johnny a lot of credit. He’s a confident shooter. They moved him around and he made the shots.”
Both teams had rugged shooting performances in the first half — UCLA didn’t score during an 8½-minute drought and UW went without a field goal for over seven minutes.
The Huskies missed their first four shots and trailed 11-0 before the Bruins misfired on nine straight field goals while Washington went on an 11-0 run to tie the game 11-11.
However, the difference was Juzang, who personally outscored the Huskies in the first half.
Juzang had 21 points at the break, including a stretch of 17 straight for the UCLA, while the Huskies trailed 26-20.
Washington went down 30-23 before an 11-4 run, including eight unanswered points and three three-pointers from Tsohonis tied it at 34-34 with 14:46 left.
The Bruins regained control with a 10-0 spurt to go up 44-34. UCLA led 48-38 when the Huskies answered with a 19-9 run to knot the score at 57-57 after Tsohonis’ three-pointer.
“Even though we lost tonight, we showed that we can play with anybody in the conference,” Tsohonis said.
It’s a quick turnaround for Washington, which travels across the state to Pullman for a rematch on Monday against Washington State.
The Cougars beat the Huskies 77-62 at Alaska Airlines Arena on Jan. 31.
“Anything can change in a moment,” Hopkins said “It’s a decision that we have to make. We have to be resilient. We were really close, but to get over the hump we got to be more consistent especially with sharing the ball and finding those shooters.
“We just played one of the best teams in the league. We’re there. To get over the hump, we have to make a few more plays and everybody has to do a little bit better job. If that happens, we can go on a run.”