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UCLA Hoops Roundup: Washington Wins the Battle of Unlikely Heros

The Washington Huskies had two advantages over UCLA going into the game Thursday night, a pumped home crowd on ESPN and a deeper bench.  The latter showed when Husky freshman guard C.J. Wilcox, who started because of injuries to Suggs and Gaddy, had not only his career high but one of the best halves in Husky basketball history:

He scored as many points over the final 20 minutes as the entire UW team had in the first half.

"That’s a performance I’ll never forget," head coach Lorenzo Romar said. "To me, that’s maybe one of the best performances in the history of the program."

Wilcox picked a good time to catch fire, seeing as how the rest of the Huskies fared from the field. Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning combined for 16 points on 6-of-23 shooting, marking the first time the pair had both been held to double-figure scoring in the same game all season.

With Zeek Jones' sprained wrist preventing him from going left and Malcolm Lee having cramps in the second half, Jerime Anderson stepped it up in his one on one battle with Wilcox:

UCLA's Jerime Anderson tried to match Wilcox, hitting four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points, all in the second half. But the Bruins (21-9, 12-5) fell out of a tie for first place with Arizona in the conference race.

More after the jump.

UCLA played good defense (except on Wilcox) throughout the game but like other games the Bruins couldn't play for a full 40 minutes and that (along with Wilcox) was the difference:

"We had a great opportunity to win on the road in a very tough environment," UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. "Our defense was really good tonight, especially in the first half, with the exception of Wilcox. He had 24 points in the second half. We had a one-point lead with the ball going in, we missed a decent shot, and he came down and got them going in a hurry and never stopped."

[With 5:55 left and a 53-49 UCLA lead] .. . .Led by Wilcox, who hit 7 of 10 shots, including 4 of 7 3-pointers in his career-best performance, the Huskies simply blitzed the Bruins.. . .

UCLA committed gaffe after gaffe during Washington's run, the hostile environment toying with the young Bruins. 

In winning their seventh straight over UCLA at home, the Huskies fed off the energy of the crowd, overcoming a porous first half to build momentum as the game got closer.

The Bruins had some other bad breaks, including the reappearance of Malcolm Lee's cramps and some burning of timeouts.   But as CBH says this is March.  The Bruins should be better able to keep their composure, even in front of a hostile crowd. 

Junior guard Malcolm Lee sat out long stretches because of cramps, meaning UCLA Coach Ben Howland couldn't put his best defender on Wilcox. The Bruins also ran out of timeouts with 12:57 remaining, in part because they had burned one when they had trouble getting the ball inbounds and used another to take Reeves Nelson out of the game late in the first half because of fatigue.. . .

But Smith threw a pass that was intercepted, sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt traveled on the next possession and then Smith missed two consecutive putbacks, spurring Washington's surge.

Howland conceded that the raucous atmosphere contributed to his team unraveling in the final minutes.

"It's some of that," he said. "But it's March now."

CBH took part of the blame for the loss of composure:

But UCLA coach Ben Howland burned through all of his timeouts and had none remaining in the closing minutes when the Huskies charged ahead, and the Bruins could not stop the momentum. Howland used UCLA's final timeout with 12:57 left after Wilcox scored five straight points and Washington moved in front 36-31.

"Not having any timeouts really hurt our ability to regain our composure," Howland said.

Let's talk about two different issues with composure briefly. First the obvious one involving Reeves Nelson.

Perhaps all those frustrations led to a tipping point as the Bruins got chippy in the second half. It boiled over with Nelson, who was called for a technical foul for slamming the floor with his hands after a missed shot.

"We lost our composure a couple of times," Howland said. "The technical foul was obviously a big play because we’re down two when they go and get two freebies."

Nelson said the referee misunderstood why he slapped the floor.

"I was just really upset with myself because I couldn’t really make anything in the second half," Nelson said. "The ref thought I was upset at him, but I went up to him after and said I was mad at myself. And he said the perception was that I was mad at him and I was like, 'Whatever.' I was just mad at myself and I slapped the floor."

I hope Reeves learns a lesson.  You not only take yourself out of the game when you lose your cool, you also can cause problems for your teammates and the referees. 

However, another incident shows the advantage of being a junior and maturity.  The game briefly stopped for 8 players midway through the first half when Anderson and  Venoy Overton got into a one on one battle.  As a result Overton had one foul and one turnover while Anderson had one steal and 2 turnovers all in less than a minute:

If Venoy Overton (right) didn't inject a little life and fire into the game, the Huskies wouldn't have won. It was as if, the crowd and everyone got wrapped up in his personal duel with Anderson in the first half. The fans jumped on the refs for every call on Overton and every perceived non-call on Anderson. Suddenly the attention turned to what was happening on the perimeter, which was good for the Huskies because they hard a difficult time stopping Reeves Nelson and Smith inside. Overton's raised UW's defensive intensity while not going too far with the antics. He also sped up the tempo offensively without being totally out of control. Overton finished with 10 points on 3-for-3 shooting.

When Anderson lost his cool briefly, he quickly went to the bench and came back with composure to have a great second half and do a good job handling the point for most of the game, against tough pressure.  Contrast that to Nelson who was worthless after his technical.  The problem for CBH of course, while a hurting Jones and Lee could help Jerime out, Nelson's backup was completely ineffective or worse.

In closing this was not the Cal loss: UCLA played tough defense throughout.    

Without Wilcox, the Huskies were 15 of 51 from the field and 2 of 8 on three-pointers. For the third straight game Washington started slowly offensively in the first half.

Without Wilcox, Washington was under 30% for the game.  UCLA shut down Washington's best players in Thomas and Bryan-Amaning (Thomas' baskets came late when UCLA was pressing).  However, while the defense has consistently become better as this season goes on, as Patroclus discussed, Honeycutt was nowhere to be seen in this game and is getting worse.   He has seemingly already left as he was out played by a guy who went 1-8:

"Justin Holiday is 1-for-8, but you look at the other side: (UCLA’s) Tyler Honeycutt is 0-for-6," Romar said. "Justin Holiday gets six rebounds and passes for five assists, so he still had an impact on that game in terms of winning."

Honeycutt by contrast only had one assist to three TOs.  Cynically some have said Tyler has already left for the NBA.  Regardless, Tyler it is YOUR best interest to start playing like you care. 

Maybe, Tyler can come back his junior year and play with the passion of Jerime Anderson.  Jerime had his best half as a Bruin in a tough environment.  Honeycutt coming back may be unlikely, but if he did, UCLA would certianly end its slump at Hec Ed if he did.

Next up, the Bruins take on the Washington State Cougars in Pullman, where UCLA has a 17 game win streak. 

Go Bruins.