Stained UCLA awaits a national TV shot at Huskies

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by Sportspress Northwest Staff

SportsPressNorthwest

Posted on March 5, 2012 at 7:00 AM

GAME: Washington (21-8, 14-3 Pac-12) at UCLA (17-13, 10-7 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, 11 a.m., Los Angeles Sports Arena. MEETING: 132nd (Bruins lead 91-40). RANKINGS: Neither team ranked. TV: CBS. RADIO:KJR 950 AM, 102.9 FM.

Washington's 80-58 romp over Southern California Thursday night, which gave the Huskies a share of the Pac-12 championship, was less than an hour in the books when head coach Lorenzo Romar turned his thoughts to Saturday's opponent, the UCLA Bruins.

"We've got to get ready for UCLA," Romar said. "We got to take care of business, man."

The Huskies can win the conference championship outright for just the second time since 1953 if they beat UCLA. Washington, which last won the league crown outright in 2009, can also complete a sweep of the Los Angeles schools for only the third time since 1979.

Washington has won 10 of 11 and six of its last seven on the road. The Bruins whacked Washington State 78-46 Thursday and gave the Huskies all they could handle in the first meeting between the teams Feb. 2 at Alaska Airlines Arena.

In that game, UCLA had a 10-point lead in the second half, largely the result of former Kentwood star Joshua Smith's 24 points, but Terrence Ross directed a late rally that enabled the Huskies to win 71-69.

"Ross is arguably the best player in our conference this year," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said in a press conference Friday, when asked what happened to the Bruins in Seattle earlier this season. "Both Ross and Tony Wroten have been great for them. Wroten is probably going to be the conference's Freshman of the Year and, again, Ross is their best player.

"All of their guys have done a great job, which is why they have a share of the conference championship. C.J. Wilcox and Abdul Gaddy have been very steady, Darnell Gant out of Crenshaw High (L.A.) has given them so big games. Lorenzo Romar has done a great job with that team."

Howland had just watched a tape of Washington's 71-69 win over UCLA when he addressed reporters, and admitted he didn't like what he saw.

"That was a big game for us," Howland said. "We were 5-4 at the time and they were 7-2. We were up by 10 with less than six minutes to go and then we started getting some fouls. We were right there with them and then Ross did what Ross does (14 points down the stretch).

"For us, the game (Saturday) isn't about revenge. It's about us playing the best team in our league right now and playing our very best. I know this: Our kids respect the Huskies."

The Huskies have a better record in close games (decided by 5 points or less), 5-3 vs. UCLA's 2-5.

"I mean, it's a good feeling," Ross said after the Huskies earned a share of the league title. "But to have your name down for winning it all, that's a big difference."

Washington can win the conference title outright even if they lose to the Bruins. But for that to happen, California would have to lose at Stanford Sunday.

Also at stake against UCLA: the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament which, for Washington, begins next Thursday.

Washington's 22-point win over USC did little to enhance its profile as a potential at-large entry into the NCAA Tournament (which would become moot if the Huskies win the Pac-12 tournament). In fact, UW's RPI got worse after beating the Trojans, going from 52 to 54.

SERIES: Dates to Dec. 30, 1936, when Washington defeated UCLA 52-31 at Los Angeles. The Huskies have defeated UCLA four consecutive times, including the 71-69 win in that finished on an 18-6 run, during which Terrence Ross scored 14 points. If the Huskies win Saturday, it will tie Washington's longest streak against the Bruins since it also took five in a row in the years spanning 1937-52. Lorenzo Romar is 11-9 against UCLA while Ben Howland is 7-11 vs. UW.

LAST GAME (Washington, March 1): Terrence Ross scored 18 points and Washington defeated Southern California 80-58. Los Angeles native Darnell Gant justified his third consecutive start with 14 points and nine rebounds, the latter part of a 49-23 board advantage. Tony Wroten missed 11 of 13 shots, but had eight rebounds and six assists. Abdul Gaddy had 12 points and five assists. Byron Wesley scored a career-high 23 points and Garrett Jackson added 14 for the Trojans (6-24, 1-16), who lost their eighth in a row and fell to 4-12 at home.

LAST GAME (UCLA, March 1): Lazeric Jones scored 18 points, Tyler Lamb added 16 and UCLA routed Washington State 78-46. UCLA's victory came a day after the release of an embarrassing Sports Illustrated article that detailed a lack of discipline and morals in the storied program. David Wear scored all 13 of his points after halftime and Jerime Anderson added nine assists for the Bruins (17-13, 10-7 Pac-12), who shot a season-best 61.2 percent and made 10 of 14 3-pointers. Brock Motum scored 18 as the only player in double-figures for Washington State (14-15, 6-11).

UW STATS/NOTES: Washington's 80-58 win over USC was its fifth blowout win this season (a win by 20 or more points). Over the past five seasons, UW has been on the winning end of 38 blowout games . . . The Huskies have recorded more steals than their opponents in each of the past six games . . . UW has won 75 percent of the time (9-3) when Tony Wroten plays 32 minutes or more, 83 percent of the time (15-3) when Abdul Gaddy has five assists or more, and 82 percent of the time (14-3) when Aziz N`Diaye has 7 rebounds or more . . . Washington continues to rank second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 75.1 ppg and 10th (up a spot from last week) in scoring defense at 69.3 ppg . . . UW still ranks last in free throw percentage (61.9) and 10th in 3-point field goal percentage, but first in rebounds (40.5 per game) . . . Tony Wroten has dropped into fourth place in the conference in scoring (16.3 ppg), and also ranks second in steals (2.00) and eighth in assists (3.62).

UCLA STATS/NOTES: The Bruins have outshot their opponents in field goal percentage for the past 5 games . . . UCLA has recorded six blowout win this season (a win by 20 or more points) and 45 over the past five . . .UCLA averages 69.2 ppg and allows 62.9, a difference of +6.2 ppg . . . UCLA leads the conference in 3-point percentage at 38.5 and blocked shots (4.60) . . . The Bruins are second in the league in steals (7.70), third in assists (16.10) and third in turnover margin (13.6) . . . UCLA has only one scorer ranked among the top 10, senior Lazeric Jones at 13.2 ppg. Jones is also third in the conference in steals (1.87 per game).

ART THIEL'S TAKE: UCLA took its anger out over the SI story on Washington State Thursday. The question is: Did the Bruins continue their catharsis post-game with more dope-smoking and drinking, or do they remain on a mission to deter the national mockery currently enveloping the program? WSU coach Ken Bone admitted the Cougs "didn't see this coming at all." Apparently, his SI subscription lapsed.

Of course the Bruins are furious. They want to lay wood on everyone, because the only thing they can do  right now is play good ball the way Howland demands. Even though the Huskies want to run the table to a solo Pac-12 title, the Bruins want this one more, especially on national TV. Howland is going to pound the us-against-the-world theme until his players' ears bleed. Unless the Bruins run out of steam emotionally at the end, the Huskies catch an unlucky break. UCLA 78, Washington 70.

STEVE RUDMAN'S TAKE: UCLA might be beset by a lot of bad publicity and program turmoil, but the Bruins present significant matchup problems for the Huskies, who had to make up a 10-point deficit Feb. 2 in Seattle to win by two points. Two keys: Limit the damage former Kentwood standout Josh Smith does inside (he scored 24 against UW in the first meeting as UCLA tallied 38 points in the paint), and win the rebounding battle.

In the first meeting, the Bruins outrebounded Washington, one of the few games this season in which the Huskies lost the board battle. They can't afford to lose it again if  they want to win the conference title outright. I think it will be close and, ultimately, disappoint for Washington fans. UCLA 72, Washington 67.

COACHES: Romar is in his 10th season as Washington’s head coach. Romar has taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament six times, and has won three Pac-10 Tournament titles (2005, 2010, 2011). Romar, who signed a 10-year contract extension in April 2011, won his his 200th game at Washington Dec. 16, 2011, when the Huskies defeated UC Santa Barbara. He had his 300th career victory and his 100th as a conference coach when the Huskies 76-63 Jan. 21.

Ben Howland, in his ninth season, is the first UCLA head coach since John Wooden to win three consecutive conference titles (2008-10) and make three trips to the Final Four (2006-08). Howland took UCLA to the NCAA Tournament in six of his first eight seasons. Howland has been a coach of the year in three leagues - 2006, UCLA; 2002, Big East at Pittsburgh; 1997, Big Sky at Northern Arizona. However, the SI story has put Howland's program under considerable scrutiny.

COMING UP: The Pac-12 Tournament opens Wednesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but the Huskies won't play until the second round Thursday. The tournament runs through Saturday. March 11 is Selection Sunday.University of Washington 2011-12 Schedule/Results(Rankings Are Current)

DateOpponentUW RnkOpp RnkW/LScoreRec.
11/4/11vs. Seattle Pacific------W77-600-0
11/12/11vs. Georgia State------W91-741-0
11/13/11vs. Florida Atlantic------W77-712-0
11/14/11vs. Portland------W93-633-0
11/20/11at Saint Louis------L77-643-1
11/25/11vs. Houston Baptist------W88-654-1
12/2/11at Nevada------L76-73 (OT)4-2
12/6/11vs. Marquette---7L79-774-3
12/10/11vs. Duke---3L86-804-4
12/16/11vs. UC Santa-Barbara------W87-805-4
12/18/11vs. South Dakota St.------L92-735-5
12/22/11vs. Cal-State Northridge------W74-506-5
12/29/11vs. Oregon State------W95-807-5
12/31/11vs. Oregon------W76-608-5
1/5/12at Colorado------L87-698-6
1/7/12at Utah------W57-539-6
1/10/12vs. Seattle U.------W91-8310-6
1/15/12vs. Washington St.------W75-6511-6
1/19/12vs. California------L69-6611-7
1/21/12vs. Stanford------W76-6312-7
1/26/12at Arizona St.------W60-5413-7
1/28/12at Arizona------W69-6714-7
2/2/12vs. UCLA------W71-6915-7
2/4/12vs. USC------W69-4116-7
2/9/12at Oregon------L82-5716-8
2/12/12at Oregon St.------W75-7217-8
2/16/12vs. Arizona State------W77-6918-8
2/18/12vs. Arizona------W79-7019-8
2/25/12at Washington St.------W59-5520-8
3/1/12at USC---------------
3/3/12at UCLA---------------
3/7/12Pac-12 Tournament---------------
3/8/12Pac-12 Tournament---------------
3/9/12Pac-12 Tournament---------------
3/10/12Pac-12 Tournament---------------

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