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WSU Men's Basketball

No. 3 UCLA holds off upset-minded Cougars

UCLA center Thomas Welsh, right, gestures after scoring as guard Lonzo Ball runs behind during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

LOS ANGELES – Washington State’s 2016-2017 season will be remembered for the admirable but ultimately unsuccessful challenges it gave some of the best teams in the country.

So, Saturday night’s 77-68 loss at No. 3 UCLA was a fitting way to send off the regular season.

Charles Callison’s 3-pointer gave WSU a 47-44 lead with 12:48 left in the game. But WSU’s yearlong battle with fatigue against deeper teams caught up to the Cougars again, and they were unable to keep up with the Bruins, who reeled off a 22-6 run.

The Cougars, who have won just three games ever at UCLA, scored just one point from when there was 10:02 left in the game until there was 5:40.

“I felt like we lost our mental again in the game,” coach Ernie Kent said. “Whatever reason late in the year. You cna’t play a team the caliber of UCLA and have that moral slippage because we’re not playing for moral victories. We should have won this game.”

The sequence was reminiscent of WSU’s upset attempts against Arizona, Oregon, Utah and UCLA when the teams met in Pullman earlier this year.

UCLA was without talented freshman forward T.J. Leaf, its second-leading scorer and rebounder, because of a sprained ankle.

With the loss, the Cougars (13-17, 6-12 Pac-12) will finish No. 10 in the Pac-12, a two place improvement over last year’s last-place finish. WSU was also projected to finish No. 12 in the conference in the preseason Pac-12 media poll.

The Cougars will face No. 7 seed Colorado at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 8th in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Callison paced the Cougars with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Josh Hawkinson added to his school record in double-doubles, scoring 16 points and collecting 14 rebounds to collect the 55th double-double of his career in his final regular season game.

WSU made nine 3-points, but attempted 27 and Kent felt that quite a few of those misses could have been makes.

“We missed a lot, and I mean a lot, of wide open shots,” Kent said.

UCLA’s star point guard Lonzo Ball, a presumptive lottery pick as a freshman, finished with 12 points and a career-high 14 assists while playing all 40 minutes. Aaron Holiday led the Bruins in scoring with 16 points, while Thomas Welsh had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Five Bruins scored in double figures.