SEATTLE – Twice this season Washington had UCLA teetering but was undone each time by costly turnovers and big shots from Bruins point guard Larry Drew II.
Shabazz Muhammad scored 21 points, Drew came up with another huge shot against Washington, and No. 23 UCLA clinched the Pac-12 Conference regular-season men’s basketball title with a 61-54 win over the Huskies on Saturday.
Drew hit a game-winning jumper at the buzzer to beat the Huskies in Los Angeles last month. This time it was a driving layup with 32 seconds left that sealed what became an outright conference title for the Bruins, their third under coach Ben Howland.
But long before Drew’s driving basket, the Huskies had committed enough mistakes and missed enough shots to let UCLA (23-8, 13-5) surge ahead over the final 5 minutes.
“We battled pretty well against them and ended up coming up short because of negligence,” Washington center Aziz N’Diaye said. “We turned the ball over a couple too many times and that’s what made the difference.”
Scott Suggs led Washington (17-14, 9-9) with 14 points, but leading scorer C.J. Wilcox was just 3 of 13 for eight points and had a number of big shot attempts rim out over the final 10 minutes. His biggest miss came with about 5 minutes remaining when a 3-pointer bounced away that could have given Washington a seven-point lead. Instead, UCLA answered the miss with consecutive baskets and eventually pulled in front thanks to Muhammad.
“I thought Shabazz was great today. Shabazz is the player of the year in the conference,” Howland said. “This win hopefully hammers that home. He was phenomenal.”
Washington was hampered by turnovers again against UCLA. In their first meeting, the Huskies gave up 19 points off 19 turnovers. This time it was even worse, turning the ball over 19 times and allowing 29 points off those mistakes.
“I don’t have a lot to say. It was pretty obvious to our team and me where the difference in that game was. UCLA did a great job of forcing us into 19 turnovers, which they converted into 29 points,” Romar said. “They scored 61, so that’s right at half of their points.”