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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

UCLA only half-hearted in 86-75 loss to Washington

The 13th-ranked Bruins' fifth consecutive defeat in Seattle leaves some players questioning the team's mettle.

January 25, 2009|David Wharton

SEATTLE — Let the gash across Alfred Aboya's forehead serve as a metaphor.

The UCLA center walked off the court at Bank of America Arena needing three stitches after taking an elbow from Washington's Jon Brockman, and that pretty much summed up a tough Saturday afternoon.

The 13th-ranked Bruins were roughed up by the quicker and more aggressive Huskies, letting a close game dissolve into a not-so-close 86-75 loss that left the players wondering.

"Right now, we just don't have enough heart," UCLA forward Drew Gordon said. "At the end of the day, the other team wants it more."

Gordon was referring not just to the Bruins' recent history of frustration at Washington, where they have lost five in a row. He and several teammates were talking about a tendency to stall down the stretch.

It happened in last week's loss to Arizona State and Thursday's two-point win at Washington State. The Bruins also failed to generate enough offense at the end of a tight loss to Texas.

On Saturday -- while battling a howling crowd and a marked discrepancy in free throws -- they still had a chance to win before going almost five minutes without a basket late in the second half.

"I don't know if we feel comfortable with the lead and just back off or what," guard Jrue Holiday said. "We just become stagnant. We don't start moving, we don't fight the same way we do in the first half."

The loss cost UCLA a share of first place in the Pacific 10, a spot now occupied solely by Washington. The Bruins' record slipped to 15-4, 5-2 in conference play.

Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar likened the game to a heavyweight fight, saying: "We had to have a heavyweight response."

The Huskies (15-4, 6-1) needed to hit back after UCLA sprinted to a 9-1 lead and looked strong in the early going. Forward Josh Shipp sank one three-pointer after another on his way to a game-high 25 points.

But Brockman, Washington's big senior forward, muscled inside to bring his team to within one point, 39-38, by halftime. The game remained tight through much of the second half until Washington prevailed in several ways.

The momentum shifted with 13:21 remaining when Aboya received a technical foul for yapping at Washington guard Venoy Overton. The Huskies soon took the lead.

But the real factors behind the turnaround had already been building.

The Huskies' trio of quick guards -- Overton, Justin Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas -- were able to penetrate on the dribble, breaking down the UCLA defense.

Thomas' 24 points were only part of the story. All those trips into the paint resulted in Washington's shooting 43 free throws, to only 15 for UCLA. The Huskies outscored the Bruins at the line, 36-10.

While UCLA Coach Ben Howland credited that difference to Washington's inside work, some of his players weren't convinced.

"The game's called the way it is," Shipp said. "We felt like we were driving too."

The Bruins still had their chance, pulling to within one point at the six-minute mark, but then the drought started.

Again, the Huskies deserved at least some of the credit. All day, they pestered UCLA point guard Darren Collison almost to the half-court line.

"We really know that he's the head of their offense," Dentmon said. "You cut off the head and there's no body."

Collison is no stranger to frustration here, having shot poorly in two previous losses. This time Washington limited him to 12 points on five-for-14 shooting, and Dentmon sneaked up behind him for a key steal in the final minutes.

"It's real disappointing to come up here and lose four straight times," Collison said of his career record in Seattle. "This was probably one of our best chances to win at Washington."

A chance that fell by the wayside in those wasted minutes. By the time the Bruins scored again, with 1:20 to play, they were behind by 11.

"We're trying not to let it be a problem," Shipp said. "But I can definitely see that."

--

david.wharton@latimes.com

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