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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Washington powers past UCLA, 97-68

Quincy Pondexter scores 10 points in the first five minutes and finishes with 20 to spark the lopsided victory.

February 21, 2010

The nation, for some reason, needed to see this.

UCLA has had enough black eyes this season, though that has nothing to do with the shiner forward Reeves Nelson is sporting. The Bruins have been kicked around by the Big West Conference, with losses to Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton, and beaten up by USC.

But those were regional missteps. What made a 97-68 loss to Washington at Bank of America Arena on Saturday night even more painful was that it went out to a country that is used to associating "UCLA" with "quality basketball."

ESPN "Game Day" rolled into Seattle, giving the Pacific 10 Conference a spotlight dance. Instead, what was on display to a national audience was the fact that the conference's brand-name team isn't quite up to its reputation.

"ESPN, national television, the bright lights, and they came out with intensity," Nelson said.

And UCLA?

"That was more than embarrassing," said Nelson, who had a team-high 14 points despite a swollen right eye from a fall against Washington State on Thursday. "We didn't even put up a fight."

The Bruins (12-14 overall, 7-7 in conference play) were mere fodder for the Huskies, who kicked sand in their face from the start.

"We really got shellacked," Coach Ben Howland said.

Things were so bad that Howland used four of his five timeouts in a first half that ended with Washington leading, 49-26. Howland used his last when Quincy Pondexter finished off a steal with a sweep dunk for a 57-30 lead with 17 minutes 41 seconds to play.

"I was just trying to stop the bleeding," Howland said.

But nothing Howland diagramed in the huddle slowed the Huskies, or kick-started his team. What the Bruins received as parting gifts was their worst loss to Washington and the worst loss in Howland's UCLA coaching career.

The lesson from the loss being, "learn from it and forget about it," forward Nikola Dragovic said standing in hall outside the Bruins' locker room.

Inside, there had been long postgame coaches meeting, followed by a few more minutes with players, punctuated by a loud bang against the wall as it broke up.

The time alone didn't result in any clear-cut answers.

What happened on the court?

"I don't know," senior guard Michael Roll said. "Washington came out and did a good job."

Why couldn't the Bruins counter?

"I don't know," Roll said.

What Roll could accurately gauge the Bruins' mood.

"It's [lousy], real [lousy]," Roll said.

The Huskies were in better spirits, though the victory will likely not help their national reputation

Normally a victory over UCLA would be a big bounce to a team's NCAA tournament hopes. But Washington (18-9, 8-7) remains a middle-of-the-pack team in a mediocre conference.

Still, on TV the Huskies had to look like a team with national juice. This went downhill fast for the Bruins. Pondexter made a three-point basket on the first possession and scored 12 of the Huskies' first 14 points. He finished with 20 points.

Dragovic bricked a shot on UCLA's first possession.

And so it went.

Washington shot 68% in the first half and 59% for the game. The Huskies made 11 of 21 three-point shots.

UCLA's numbers didn't add up, most noticeably their 18 turnovers.

"Each of our turnovers in the first half led to an easy basket, or so it seemed," Howland said. "We couldn't handle their pressure. We couldn't even get a catch."

The solution?

"This is going to hurt for a while," Howland said. "But we have to come back Monday and concentrate."

chris.foster@latimes.com

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