UCLA stops Washington's momentum

It was a cold and rainy night outside, but inside Hec Ed Pavilion, the atmosphere was electrifying as 7,591 fans braved the foul weather to watch the Washington Huskies open up the New Year with a 67-77 loss to the UCLA Bruins. The loss ends the Huskies three game winning streak and starts off conference play with a heartbreaking loss.

"(It was) Obviously a disappointing loss," said Husky Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "We came in here with a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence and when you have your opener of conference, and you want that to continue.

"Unfortunately for us, we weren't able to pull it out."

The recurring theme from tonight's game was "runs." The Huskies were not able to put in long periods of solid play, and only showed bursts of it. When they scored, it came quickly, and when they did not, they did not for a long period of time.

A big reason for those long droughts of scoring was Washington's inability to find the bottom of a net. Like the weather outside, their day from the field was nothing more than miserable as they made only 33.3% from the field.

"They (UCLA) just had long armed, long limbed guys that covered a lot of ground that were able to get to our shots," Romar said of the team's poor shooting. "We hadn't faced that yet this year."

Curtis Allen, who had a solid game with a game high 17 points to go along with five steals, also felt the same way. "That was huge," said Allen. "They were able to alter a lot of our shots and that's why we didn't shoot a high percentage today."

The game started out at a fast pace as both teams were going full steam ahead. However, the high energy did not necessarily equal efficient play from both teams. The opening segment of the game saw many missed passes from both sides and bodies flying all over the paint as players were jumping and diving for rebounds.

UCLA drew first blood by going up quickly 4-0, but Allen made the game seem promising by roaring back to hit a three pointer from beyond the right side of the arc and kept the game close.

The game remained close until Jason Kapono and UCLA went crazy as they took advantage of Washington's poor shooting to go on a 16-1 run. After a Kapono 3 pointer from the baseline, UCLA led by a score of 28-15.

The Huskies would not roll over and die.

Allen and freshman Bobby Jones took center stage as the Huskies went on a little run of their own took a big cut into the UCLA lead. After making two shots from the line, Allen got right back into the defense mode and stole a pass and made a lay-up as he was hacked along the way to make it a 3-point play. UCLA tried to make it exciting on the other end but T.J. Cummings missed a jam that trickled to the baseline. Kapono ran to save the ball but threw it halfway to Everett as he tried to save the ball but Nate Robinson was there waiting for the gift as he took the ball and gave it to Jones to slam the ball home to cap off an 11-0 run.

The Huskies came out fired up in the second half and after Will Conroy stole an inbound pass to lay it in and tie the game at 39, the Hec Ed Crowd erupted and rose to it's feet to cheer the team on.

But that was the last time the Huskies would come close, as the Bruins did not let the rowdy crowd enjoy themselves any longer than they had to. With a flurry of scoring consisting of three-pointers, baseline jumpers, fancy lay-ins, and coast-to-coast lay-ups, the Bruins brought that lead right back up to 17, their largest of the night.

Robinson, who had been quiet all evening (perhaps it was jet-lag) tried to get into one of his grooves by nailing some clutch shots including a three-pointer fall away jumper from the left side of the arc to cut the lead to six with three minutes to go in the game.

But not even Robinson could alter UCLA's momentum as they silenced the crowd again by controlling the game the rest of the night and eventually sent the crowd home on a downer.

"Our guys will be ready for USC," Romar said of the team's confidence after the game. "They are college guys that are resilient. Some of them may not sleep well tonight but they'll come back tomorrow in practice and they'll be wide-eyed and ready to play the next game."

Familiar Faces, Different Places: Tonight's game had some familiar faces on the other sideline. UCLA brought along Michael Fey, the talented freshmen center out of Olympia's Capital HS. The Bruins also brought along C Ryan Hollins, who signed with UCLA after initially signing with Lorenzo Romar at St. Louis and briefly flirted with following him to Washington. Also seen was Brian Morrison, the guard out of Lake Washington HS in Redmond and former North Carolina Tar Heel who transferred to UCLA and is red-shirting this season to meet NCAA requirements.

Did we forget our whistles?: The referees did not seem to mind all the physical action early on in the game as the first foul was not called until 5:40 had passed, which was quite surprising with all the slaps that was heard all the way up in the press section.

Dawg Thieves: Washington forced UCLA to turn the ball over 29 time, which can be the credited to the full-court press defense the Huskies ran for the majority of the game. It was the most turnovers by a Washington opponent since they forced BYU into 30 turnovers on November 26, 1996. The difference in this game however was that Washington defeated BYU that day. Washington rocked BYU by a score of 95-44, a score that should have resembled a game that saw the opponents turning the ball over 29 times.

Numbers to Ponder: Even though the Huskies shot a some-what respectable 43.3% from the floor in the second half, a 24.2% effort in the first half brought the game average to a dismal 33.3%. The Huskies also shot only 16.7% from three-point range (2 for 12), which was their strength in their five wins. For their five victories, Washington is shooting 48% from long distance, and in their five losses, they are shooting only 26%. Even though Washington forced 29 UCLA turnovers, they could only get 26 points out of them. However, UCLA forced 17 turnovers and turned them into 23 extra points

Husky Stats:
Scoring: Allen 17, Wrenn 14, Jones 9, Robinson 8, Conroy 7, Jensen 5, Washington 4, Shelton 3

Rebounds: Jones 6, Conroy 5, Wrenn 4, Jensen 3, Allen 3, Massingale 2, Washington 1, Robinson 1

Assists: Conroy 4, Allen 1, Wrenn 1

Blocks: Jensen 2, Massingale 1, Jones 1

Steals: Allen 5, Wrenn 2, Jensen 2, Conroy 2, Robinson 1, Jones 1

Up Next: The Huskies wrap up their six-game home stand on Saturday, January 4th as they take on the USC Trojans. Tip-off is at 6:00pm.

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