AUDIO: Abdul Gaddy and Darnell Gant talks about the Huskies frantic comeback victory to move them into sole possession of first place. Audio available here.
by Curtis Crabtree
MONTLAKE - Another second half takeover from Terrance Ross helped rally the Washington Huskies from a 10-point second half deficit to earn a 71-69 victory over the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night.
Ross finished the night with 22 points, 18 coming in the second half, as Washington (15-7, 8-2 Pac 12) rallied for their fifth straight win over the Bruins and kept them at the top of the conference standings. With Arizona's 78-74 victory over California Thursday night, Washington is alone in first place in the Pac-12.
Washington struggled with turnovers and were out-rebounded by the Bruins frontline of David & Travis Wear and Joshua Smith. The teams kept the score close in the first half with neither team leading by more than five points as the Huskies took a 35-34 lead into the break.
Shawn Kemp Jr. managed to give the Huskies 11 quality minutes late in the first half after Aziz N'Diaye picked up his second foul of the game.
Kemp had four points, both on slam dunks, and two rebounds.
UCLA (12-10, 5-5 Pac-12) began to shoot the ball well and continued to force Washington to cough the ball up. Jerime Anderson drilled a 3-pointer to give UCLA a 54-47 lead as part of a 7-0 run by the Bruins.
Tony Wroten fought to keep the Huskies in it getting to the line on back to back trips down the court and making four straight free throws to pull within three. Lazeric Jones would hit consecutive 3-pointers to push the Bruin lead back to seven, 60-53. Wroten finished with 13 points and a perfect 5 for 5 at the foul line.
Washington's struggles to hold onto the ball continued to haunt them as turnovers continued to lead to UCLA points. Couple that with only one Washington made field goal in nearly nine minutes and UCLA seemed poised to run away with the game.
But the Huskies managed to turn the fortunes after that. They switched to a 2-3 zone defensively that helped keep N'Diaye out of foul trouble and UCLA struggled to adapt.
"We were trying to get them out of their rhythm and keep Aziz in there," Romar said. "We are not a zone team, but we practice it enough to be able to run it, and I thought it was effective tonight."
The Huskies continued to get the free throw line with Ross and C.J. Wilcox convertin all six attempts to close the Bruin lead. Ross hit a deep jumper to break the Washington field goal drought and close within four and get the crowd back on their feet.
A moving screen from David Wear gave possession back the Washington and Ross answered as he came off a screen at the foul line and drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to pull within one at 65-64.
After another lost possession for UCLA, Ross drove, got twisted and threw up a desperation shot attempt that went in while getting fouled to put Washington back ahead 65-64. Anderson turned the ball over again driving too deep and throwing the ball away leading to breakaway dunk from Darnell Gant as the crowd became deafening.
The Bruins tried to setup plays and were unable to communicate due to the volume coming from the crowd.
David Wear finally hit a jumper from the free throw line to break a six-and-a-half minute field goal drought and pull back within one.
Ross drained another three from the left wing to gave the Huskies a 71-67 edge with 1:21 left to play.
After a bucket from Smith pulled UCLA within two, the Huskies ran down the clock and Ross missed a contested jumper from the foul line to give UCLA a chance with 26 seconds to go.
Norman Powell was able to get a look at a clean jumper from the right baseline that rimmed out and UCLA was unable to corral the rebound in time to get another shot up before time expired.
"The last few minutes we were a team," Romar said. "I don’t think we pride ourselves in that that much. One of the things we talked to the team about was handling success. When things are going well it is easy to let your guard down a little bit, but there was not any of that tonight when we came together as a team."
The loss is a pretty devastating blow to the Bruins who have played much better lately after a 1-4 start to their season.
"'B' (UCLA coach Ben Howland) was pretty pissed off," guard Lazeric Jones said. "It's a game we really wanted. We prepared really well I feel for this game and for it to come down at the end like that, people are pretty upset."
Smith, from nearby Kentwood High School, scored a game-high and career-high 24 points for UCLA and hauled in nine rebounds as Washington was unable to deal with his massive size inside.
David Wear had 11 points and Jones finished with 10 for UCLA. Darnell Gant had 12 points for Washington.
NOTES: Huskies G Tony Wroten took a knee to his right thigh in the first half that Romar said it slowed him down a little. Wroten tweeted after the game, "At the doctors Getting a scan on my thigh." ... Washington had their second best game of the season at the foul line converting on 15 of 20 attempts, good for a 75-percent rate. The Huskies were 15 for 19 from the line in the team's 76-73 loss at Nevada in December.