UW hopes to solidify NCAA standing with sweep

Finally, the Washington Huskies could exhale, having overcome UCLA and while pumping life back in their flagging season. The Huskies used a 14-0 run late in the game to come back from a four-point deficit and hold on to beat the Bruins 70-63 on March 3 in Seattle.

The game was tight for the first 35 minutes, as the Huskies appeared to be still reeling from the shocking loss to Washington State on Feb. 27. That defeat at the hands of the Cougars had some wondering if the Huskies were suddenly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and it realistically killed all hopes of winning the Pac-10 title. Washington had been an almost unanimous pick to win the conference at the preseason media day.

But the win over UCLA, which clinched the fifth 20-win season of coach Lorenzo Romar's career at Washington, would seem to put the Huskies in a pretty good spot.

They can make it that much more secure, however, by beating USC on March 5.

The Huskies have struggled with USC's size the last two seasons. They were swept by the Trojans last year, and they needed overtime to beat USC in Los Angeles in December. That was the Pac-10 opener, a time when the Huskies were considered a potential Final Four team.

Washington, however, was just 6-6 in its last 12 games prior to the win over UCLA.

But while the Huskies got off to a slow start offensively against the Bruins, trailing 25-24 at halftime, Romar said the Huskies "maintained our defensive focus, our overall focus and our intensity."

Those are things the Huskies have struggled with at times the last month, but there could be no better time than March to rediscover them.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Washington wouldn't have beaten UCLA for the seventh straight time in Seattle without a career performance from guard C.J. Wilcox, who scored all 24 of his points in the second half March 3.

He was 4-for-7 on 3-pointers. Wilcox also had a conventional three-point play on a jumper and a foul shot that came as the shot clock expired, helping key Washington's 14-0 run late in the second half.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar called it "one of the greatest performances in the history of the program," especially considering the stakes involved.

Wilcox, a redshirt freshman, had been in a slump, hitting just two of 10 3-pointers in the previous two games while scoring a combined eight points.

But prior to that, he had scored 59 points in four games. He appears to be hitting his stride.
--The Huskies swept the series with UCLA for just the third time ever, the others coming in 1987 and 2006. The March 3 victory was Washington's seventh straight win over the Bruins in Seattle, however.
--Prior to losing 80-69 to Washington State on Feb. 27, the Huskies' season low for a home game this season was 80 points. Washington had topped 100 points five times in its previous 13 home games.
--Junior G Scott Suggs sat out the Washington State game with a strained left MCL.
--With nine blocked shots on Feb. 22 against Seattle University, the Huskies broke the season school record with 153 blocks. They added four more in the Feb. 27 loss to Washington State.

BY THE NUMBERS: 55 -- The uniform number worn by senior F Matthew Bryan-Amaning when Washington played Seattle. Bryan-Amaning, who usually wears No. 11, donned the nameless substitute jersey when he forgot his uniform.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not friends with him right now. I'm trying not to say anything. Not even look at him." -- Washington junior PG Isaiah Thomas, on how he planned to deal with his friend and Washington State rival Reggie Moore when the teams squared off. Thomas had 21 points in the Huskies' loss, while Moore scored 10 points for the Cougars.
KEY MATCHUPS: The Huskies beat USC 73-67 in overtime at Los Angeles on opening night, but the Trojans have won two of the past three matchups in Seattle. The Huskies must contain 6-foot-10 forward Nikola Vucevic, possibly the Pac-10's most underrated player.

FUTURES MARKET: Sophomore C Aziz N'diaye had a breakthrough performance in Washington's 95-74 out-of-conference win over Seattle on Feb. 22. He scored a career-high 15 points, and he added 10 rebounds for his third career double-double. N'Diaye also blocked three shots. He had six points and nine rebounds vs. Washington State on Feb. 27.

--Junior G Isaiah Thomas scored just nine points March 3, tying a season low, and he didn't score until late in the second half. All nine of his points came as the Huskies went on a big run late to pull away.

Some in Seattle have questioned if Thomas is wearing down a bit after a long season in which he has averaged 31 minutes a game. Thomas is just 14-for-28 at the free-throw line in Washington's last four games.

--Junior G Scott Suggs, who hadn't played since the Arizona State game two weeks ago due to an MCL injury, returned to action and scored four points in 18 minutes off the bench March 3.

Suggs' return helped buoy Washington's depth, which hasn't been what coach Lorenzo Romar anticipated before the season due to some key injuries. However, the Huskies remained mostly an eight-man team against the Bruins, as true freshman G Terrence Ross played just four minutes.

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