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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Slow start dooms Husky men as they lose No. 9 UCLA

Washington's PJ Fuller II gets ready for defense during a Pac-12 Conference game against UCLA on Thursday in Los Angeles.  (Courtesy of UW Athletics)
By Percy Allen Seattle Times

LOS ANGELES – Before Thursday’s 70-61 loss to No. 9 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, coach Mike Hopkins offered an assessment of the Washington men’s basketball team that’s two games above .500 with seven remaining in the regular season.

“Sometimes our offense looks like we’ve never played together,” Hopkins said.

“And sometimes our offense against really high-level teams looks like a well-oiled machine. But that’s what you get just being new.”

Sure enough, the Huskies embodied every bit of their coach’s opinion with a seesaw first-half performance that decided Thursday night’s game at Pauley Pavilion.

The Huskies’ 17th straight loss to a Top 25 opponent dropped them to 13-11 and 5-8 in the Pac-12 before Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at USC.

Following a three-game winning streak, Washington is 1-3 in the past four games and lost the season series against UCLA.

Similar to their last outing – a 95-72 defeat against No. 6 Arizona – the Huskies were undone by a momentum-swinging spurt. The Wildcats ran away from UW midway through the second half with a 19-1 run that turned a close game into a blowout.

This time, the slow-starting Huskies can pinpoint their demise to the game’s first 13 minutes when they missed 10 of their first 14 shots while UCLA converted 12-of-22 field goals.

Bruins center Adem Bona capped the spurt when he tipped away Koren Johnson’s interior pass for a turnover before outracing the Huskies on a fast break that ended with a dunk for a 26-8 lead with 7:14 left in the first half.

Washington outscored UCLA 14-12 the rest of the first half and trailed 38-22 at halftime.

The Huskies also outscored the Bruins 39-32 in the second half, but didn’t tally enough points to overcome their anemic start.

Washington closed the gap to 67-61 following a 3-pointer from Keion Brooks Jr. with 33 seconds left.

UCLA capped the scoring with three free throws, and UW failed to score on its final two possessions.

Brooks scored a game high 23 points, while Cole Bajema and PJ Fuller II each had 11 and Meah finished with 10 points and six rebounds.

Jamie Jacquez paced UCLA (18-4, 9-2) with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Amari Bailey had 13 points and Bona added 10 points and eight rebounds.