"I don't feel that was our basketball team tonight," Romar said. "I didn't recognize our team tonight. Our team tonight was different. We didn't seem to have the fight in us tonight to fight back."
This game will end up in the record books, but from Washington's perspective it will be for all the wrong reasons.
The 41-point margin of victory was the worst ever for a Romar-coached Washington team, and the fourth-worst in school history. It was also the second-worst home defeat ever, following the then-No. 1 Bruins defeating UW 100-48 back in 1974.
Lonzo Ball scored 22 points for UCLA (21-3, 8-3), followed by the 21 points of Bryce Alford and the 20 each for TJ Leaf and Aaron Holiday. Isaac Hamilton rounded out the Bruins in double-figures with 10 points.
Markelle Fultz led Washington (9-14, 2-9) with 25 points, while Noah Dickerson was the only other Husky in double-figures with 10 points.
The disappointing result came at a time where the Huskies recorded their first sellout in five years. The last time Washington hosted a full arena was February 18, 2012 versus Arizona, a game they won 79-70.
The game was never in doubt from the opening tip, and the expected Ball-Fultz battle royale between arguably the two top draft-ready prospects never got a chance to materialize.
By the first television timeout, UCLA was up 10-4. By the second they were ahead 20-8. By the third they were up 27-14. Shooting a remarkable 57 percent from the field, the Bruins extended their lead to 52-34 by halftime. They had out-rebounded UW 23-10 and had a 32-16 advantage scoring in the paint, as well as a 14-5 advantage with second-chance opportunities.
The second half was actually worse. UCLA hit their first five three-pointers in a row as they pushed out to a 25-point lead before the first television time out. By the second time out their advantage had bulged to a whopping 34 points.
The Bruins had scored 90 points with six minutes to play, needed only 31 more points to break the all-time opponent scoring record for a game against Washington. Arizona State had scored 120 points in a 30-point victory back in 1988.
But they were still able to better their season scoring average by 15 points as the Huskies tried to use zone, man-to-man and switching - all to no avail.
"We just could have played harder," Fultz said, matter-of-factly. "Our shots just weren’t falling in the beginning. We were getting open shots and open layups and stuff like that. We were just not making open shots. It was just one of those nights.”
What would have needed to happen to make this a closer game? “Played a little bit harder and locate their shooters. I think we lost track of their shooters a lot. We just could have played harder.”
Did you come out with the energy you needed? “I think we could have played a little harder, but I don’t think we started off slow. I don’t think we started off like some of the games where we start off real slow. Our shots just weren’t falling in the beginning. We were getting open shots and open layups and stuff like that. We were just not making open shots. It was just one of those nights.”
Does tonight feel different? “I think it was just one of those nights, the games where we weren’t making opens shots, we we were dropping easy passes, just little things like that. We’re just going to forget this game and move onto the next one.”
How tough was it to slow down UCLA? “In practice we knew they were going to be a good transition team. They push on make and miss, they do a good job of having one guy leak out every play. As soon as the shot goes up they’re just launching it down court. I think we didn’t do a bad job, but we could have did a little better, like I said, job of just containing and once we got back just finding our man. Like I said, we lost a couple shooters and stuff like that.”
How do you respond when people say you seem too even-keeled? “It’s pretty funny. People always try to say it looks like I don’t care really. That’s just how I play. People say the game looks easy, but anybody that knows me personally knows that I love the game, I have a great passion. If you look in the huddle I’m always talking to the guys. Just around them always bringing the guys up. It’s just the way my body looks. Other than that I just always try to smile, on the court just bring my guys up.”
What can you learn from this game? “They’re a great team. We just have to play harder and just locate shooters. That’s all we have to do.”
Opening “UCLA obviously is a very good basketball team. I don’t feel that was our basketball team tonight. I didn’t recognize our team tonight. We’ve dropped more games than we would have liked obviously, but our team tonight was different. We started out early. We missed some really easy shots. They made a couple. We just didn’t seem to have the fight in us tonight to really fight back and challenge a very potent offensive team in UCLA.”
What do you think happened? “I wish I knew. I didn’t recognize our team.”
Did it have anything to do with how you the USC loss? “Perhaps. Perhaps. Again, like I said, we’ve dropped games. Not like this. We’ve played some other quality teams. This was different.”
Did you like what you saw at any point tonight? “We started to make some shots later in the first half, but overall - I’m pretty optimistic - overall tonight, just didn’t see a whole lot that we can applaud. There weren’t long enough stretches to be able to applaud. We didn’t take care of the ball at all. We didn’t do a lot of good things tonight.”
Are you surprised so little has worked this season? “Yeah, I thought that we would be further a long. We certainly have tried different things. Next week is going to be - I say this a lot - it’s really going to test the character of our team. Because you drop probably six conference games that you had a chance to win going down the stretch. You drop them. At some points you can get really discouraged. I’m hoping tonight isn’t the night that we just got really discouraged. We have a rough road trip ahead of us.”
Are you waiting for the moment for effort to show up? “We’ve had effort show up. It just hast - now tonight, I can’t talk about tonight. We had effort against USC. We’ve had games, many games where we’ve had effort, but it hasn’t been consistent. My biggest issue was us trying to mature to a point where we have consistent effort and consistent execution.”
How can you guard against steps backwards? “We watch film. We talk about it. Whether you call it pride, whatever it is, we have to keep hitting it. Keep driving it home. We don’t have a lot of games left.”
Was there a point in your coaching career that has been this trying? “There have been issues, maybe distractions off the court or other things. Had probably two other teams here at Washington and I’m not counting the 2014 team where we had all the injuries. Not counting that one. There have been a couple other teams where we just couldn’t get them to turn the page. There have been other teams where we kept grinding, kept grinding and we did. We did turn the page. So far, February 4th, I haven’t done a good enough job to get us to turn the page. So yeah, it’s trying.”
Was there ever the possibility that a game like this might happen while working to turn the corner? “We’ve talked to our team about that, about ‘we’re coming close, fellas. We’re coming close.’ But if you ever get to a point where you take a step back mentally it can get a lot worse. That was tonight. It got a lot worse. It’s something we’ll talk to our team about. This is what can happen if you do take a step. We have to bring it every single time. We don’t have that much room for error. WE try to guard against that. I spoke about that earlier. You keep hitting, you keep hitting. You keep coming up short; you’re close but you come up short. At some point you can tend to relax a little bit and not keep - don’t continue to push through. We have to recover from this on Monday. Not Thursday, Monday.”
Was this game lost on the offensive end or defensive end? “Both. Both. I don’t see an area where we really excelled and played well tonight on either end.”
On switching between zone and man defense “We went back and forth. We tried. Early on we were doing a decent job. Wasn’t stellar. Just doing a decent job. They’re going to find the crack. They’re just - they’re a really good offensive team. Right now I don’t think we have the personnel to just impose our will that way. If we came out that way and now we’re making shots, maybe some kind of way we find a way to gain momentum, but we weren’t doing that. We come out, this group, against UCLA and we can’t knock shots down. Makes for a long night like we had. But it shouldn’t have been this long of a night. Like I said at the outset, that wasn’t our team tonight.”
What’s your message to the fanbase and his future with the team? “I’ve been asked that several time. What I’ve continued to say is, number one, that that has not been indicated to me by the people I work for. But at the same time, as head basketball coach or as a leader of whatever group you’re leading, it all stops and ends with the leader. If the job is not getting done, the leader has to own up to it. I’m owning up to it. However, the hand that we’ve bene dealt is that we rebuilt our program within a year’s time from two years ago. We felt we had it set. Then we had a couple of guys that were fantastic basketball players that we didn’t plan on going to the NBA in Dejounte (Murray) and Marquese Chriss. Again, there are certain players you know that are only going to be with you one year, you understand that. They didn’t even know that that was going to be the case. When you lose two of them, you kind of - you’re not starting all over, but you take a couple steps back. But now next year is going to be a year where we’re finally going to be older with more experience and some really good, young players coming in. ‘Well, that just happened a couple of years ago, you had some really good, young players.’ I’ve said this. That was a class of seven. That recruiting class, if you believe the rankings was ranked 12th. These are only five and they’re ranked number three in the country. These guys are more equipped to come in right away and help you. I think this year we’ve had guys that were not key players, but key roll players for us last year. The roll players have been asked to step in and be key scorers. We’ve had guys that become all-league players eventually, but they weren’t ready to do that yet. That’s what I would say. This is not a situation where you can’t see the light at the end of tunnel. Everything is in place for us to make progress and be good.”
Did you think Markelle Fultz played in an unrecognizable way too? “No. Markelle (Fultz) was good. I thought Matisse Thybulle was good. I thought those two played really good basketball”
On the altercation with Carlos Johnson “Just discussion between us. You have to have the proper response. That’s all.”
He didn’t play the rest of the game. Will that hold over? “Yeah. We’ll see.”