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Thursday, February 2, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Washington 71, UCLA 69

By Peter Yoon

 Joshua Smith
UCLA's Joshua Smith had arguably the best game of his career, but it wasn't enough in a loss.

UCLA blew a 10-point lead in the final six minutes and lost, 71-69, Thursday at Washington, the eighth consecutive loss for the Bruins at Alaska Airlines Arena and the fourth time in five road losses this season that UCLA has let a game get away late.

Joshua Smith had a career-high 24 points to go along with nine rebounds, but it wasn't enough as the Bruins (12-10, 5-5) remained winless against Division I teams away from Southern California.

Overview: UCLA led, 65-55, with 6:02 to play, but had four turnovers and went 2-for-7 from the field over the rest of the game. Washington went on a 13-0 run to take the lead and held on for the victory when Norman Powell's 15-foot jump shot with two seconds left fell off the front of the rim and Smith couldn't corral the rebound as time expired.

Washington guard Terrence Ross scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, including 12 in the final 6:21 as Washington (15-7, 8-2) rallied back and remained in first place in the Pac-12 Conference standings. Ross made 7-of-8  shot attempts in the second half and Washington shot 52 percent from the field in the game despite a 4-for-11 performance by leading scorer Tony Wroten.

Turning point: UCLA led by 10, but during a 28-second span, Lazeric Jones and Tyler Lamb each picked up their fourth fouls and a minute later David Wear picked up his fourth.

Those fouls seemed to deflate the Bruins, who went a stretch of five minutes, 30 seconds without a field goal. Twice the Bruins committed offensive fouls for turnovers during that span and Ross began heating up.

His layup with 2:35 to play gave Washington a 66-65 lead, it's first since halftime, and his 3-pointer with 1:15 to play gave the Huskies a 71-67 lead.

UCLA star of the game: Smith played easily the best game of the season and probably the best game of his career as the 6-foot-10, 305-pound center played with energy and passion.

He displayed some post moves he had not shown in past games, going up and under for some baskets and even made a mini-jump hook. He fought for position in the paint and took the ball to the basket with a purpose -- something he has been criticized for not doing all season.

Smith made 9-of-13 shots, setting career highs in both shots made and attempted as he finally showed the type of dominating force he could be as he finally gets his conditioning level up. Surely Smith, who grew up in Kent, Wash., had extra motivation playing in front of his hometown crowd.

Stat of the game: On the surface, UCLA's 44.3 percent shooting doesn't look horrible, but a closer look reveals that Smith, David Wear (5-for-6), and Jerime Anderson (3-for-4) combined to make 17-of-23 (73.9 percent) while the rest of the team was 10-of-38 (26 percent).

UCLA's leading scorers for the season Jones and Travis Wear were a combined 7-of-29 (24.1 percent) with Jones seemingly going rogue and getting out of the structure of the UCLA offense at times and reverting to his early-season habit of trying to force things.

Travis Wear entered the game leading the conference with a 65.8 shooting percentage in Pac-12 games, but made only 4-of-15 shots as he missed several tip-ins and open jumpers. Lamb was 2-for-7 and Norman Powell was 1-for-4.

Lamb is 6-of-25 (24 percent) in UCLA's last four road games.

What it means: UCLA will not win the Pac-12 regular-season title.

Only two teams in the last 48 seasons have won the conference title with five losses and the Bruins chances of doing it this year are pretty much gone as they now trail Washington by three games and have five teams between them and the top, meaning it's a near certainty that UCLA will have to win the Pac-12 tournament to make the NCAA tournament.

UCLA's best hope now is to finish among the top four in the conference to get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. Otherwise, the Bruins would have to win four games in four days to make the NCAAs.

The Bruins have only themselves to blame as they have been unable to close out games on the road despite being close in just about every one. Before throwing away the 10-point lead at Washington, they blew a 13-point halftime lead in a 75-68 loss at Oregon and allowed Oregon State to shoot 58 percent in an 87-84 loss.

At Stanford, Jones missed a buzzer-beating attempt in a 60-59 loss and at California the Bruins were within a point at halftime before getting blown out, 85-69, as they allowed Cal to shoot 65 percent.