Feb. 7, 2013
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
LOS ANGELES - You will remember UCLA's Larry Drew II swishing a step-back jumper just before the final horn to send the Huskies to their latest, maddening defeat.
All the Huskies will be remembering until Sunday's game at USC - and perhaps beyond that -- are 19 more, mostly careless and preventable turnovers. Those cost them another win over a top team in the conference Thursday night in Westwood.
Twice Washington's guards saved balls from going out of bounds - but by flinging them blindly under the UCLA basket. The Bruins got four of their 18 points off UW turnovers those easiest of ways. The Huskies also dropped simple passes, stepped on the baseline on drives to the basket and once traveled by taking not one but three extra steps without dribbling.
"That shot didn't beat us. It was more the turnovers," senior point guard Abdul Gaddy said as he and the Dawgs gnawed on a bitter - and frankly avoidable - 59-57 loss to the also-bumbling Bruins at new Pauley Pavilion.
"Yeah, part of it is being careless. Being smart. Not saving the ball under the other team's basket. Catching the ball," said Gaddy, after he had a season-high eight assists with four turnovers.
"We didn't have a lot of turnovers where they caused them; we caused our own. That's something that we've got to fix."
The sooner it's solved, the higher Washington will climb back into a wide-open Pac-12 race.
Consider this: the Huskies (13-10, 5-5 Pac-12) have lost to three of the top four teams in the jumbled conference - Arizona, Oregon and UCLA - by a combined 11 points and have beaten the other top team, Arizona State. UW has 57 turnovers in those three defeats to the league leaders, resulting in 66 total gift points to the Wildcats, Ducks and Bruins.
That's how close - or far away - the Dawgs are to being tied with Arizona at 8-2 in the league. Instead they are in a jumbled mass sharing fifth place with Colorado, California, Stanford, and USC.
N'Diaye was again dominant inside Thursday night. His 11 points and a career-high 18 rebounds gave him his league-best 10th double-double this season. C.J. Wilcox slogged like the rest of his team through cold shooting early -- plus the early stages of a stress fracture in his left foot -- to score 15 points. Gaddy added 13.
Wilcox played 38 minutes and wore a walking boot afterward; he described that as a "precaution." He has been playing for weeks with pain his on the outside of his left foot, yet has remained the top scorer in conference play at almost 19 points per game. An MRI this week confirmed he was having early signs of a stress fracture below his fourth and smallest toe.
"When I get going (in a game) I really don't feel it," Wilcox said, assuring he will play yet again Sunday night at USC.
UW will be smarting until then over all those turnovers plus seven missed shots at the rim.
They lost to a sputtering UCLA team (17-6, 7-3) that shot just 33 percent, took seven more shots than it scored points and played as poorly in about as many spurts as UW did.
As Shawn Kemp Jr. aptly put it after his 10-point game in his third career start: "This was definitely winnable. Yeah, if we would cut down our turnovers to even half of those we would have won."
Gaddy's 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired - after the Huskies had started 0 for 12 from deep - pulled them to within 52-51 with 3:17 to go. Shabazz Muhammad scored 22 points and kept UCLA ahead late, but the dynamic freshman missed a free throw with 37 seconds to go to keep UW down by only 57-55.
After a UW timeout Wilcox deftly beat a defensive overplay on a drive and score at the rim to tie it with 11 seconds remaining. Then Drew, known to be a slashing creator, took the ball in the backcourt and calmly dribbled across the timeline.
"We just didn't want Shabazz to get it," Gaddy said. "Once Drew got it we were pretty confident that if he took a jump shot we'd be fine, that we were going to overtime."
With UW sagging off him and onto Muhammad, Drew dribbled from right wing across the lane. N'Diaye leaped out late to cut off the drive. As Wilcox leaned away from Muhammad on the left side toward Drew, UCLA's hero stepped back with a jumper that arched well over the 7-foot N'Diaye's hand and swished through the net just as the clock reached zeroes.
"Just luck of the draw," he concluded, with a shrug.
Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar summed up the night by saying, "We shouldn't even have been in that position at the end.
"You turn the ball over that much, you put yourself in that position."
Romar takes full responsibility for all the mistakes.
"We have to be stronger with the ball, and that's on me as the head coach," he said heading into two practice days at USC that focus on exactly that.
If ever there was a game to be seized, this was it.
The first half was as ugly and forgettable a half as the Huskies have been a part of in a while. John Wooden - whose Hall-of-Fame life is displayed throughout the concourse in a museum-like setting in this renovated icon -- would have turned away during the first 20 minutes. The teams combined for 21 turnovers and missed 39 of 61 shots.
Washington missed five shots at the rim in the first half alone. Wilcox was 3 for 10. Scott Suggs spent much of the half on the bench with three fouls and never did get going, finishing 1 for 7. Andrew Andrews was next to him with two fouls, en route to a 1-for-5 night and just two points.
Yet the Huskies were somehow tied at 28 at the break.
They would have been leading if not for a charge call on Wilcox and then a defensive breakdown in the final 4 seconds of the half. The Dawgs allowed UCLA to inbound 94 feet from the basket and advance freely 70-plus feet before Norman Powell made a 3-pointer to tie the game at the break.
This is the second time in seven days Romar has bemoaned his team letting a huge opportunity for a resume-building win slip away. The other one was after losing the lead late in a similarly ugly, 57-53 loss to Arizona in Seattle.
Does he sense his guys are getting worn down by all the wouldas, shouldas and couldas?
"I think we'll bounce back," Romar said. "When you fought like we fought and you know that turnovers were the difference, you bounce from that.
"And we will."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: This is the first league road trip on which the Huskies are not flying home between games. The team moved to a hotel in downtown Los Angeles after Thursday's game. It will practice Friday and Saturday at nearby USC before its game there Sunday at 7 p.m. The Dawgs will fly home immediately after that game and are scheduled to arrive on campus around 1:30 a.m. Monday. They will also stay in Arizona Feb. 19 through 23, while playing at U of A on a Wednesday and at ASU on a Saturday.