UCLA lost its most frustrating game in a long time over a bad University of Washington Husky team. Since this is a news roundup, I will lead with the Seattle Times Huskies' commentator on the biggest factor in the game:
The Pac-12 - and perhaps the NCAA - needs to rethink what they're doing: Many of the 6,920 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena were booing the referees throughout the game and it wasn't your typical home-crowd fans angst at officiating. The NCAA made it a point to tighten up on the touch fouls and hand checking. The mandate went out to the refs and they're doing that they've been told. There were a lot of fouls at the start of the season, but coaches, players and fans thought the refs would lighten up now that we're close to midway through the season. No such luck. Tonight's game included 64 combined fouls and 90 free throws. It was joke. Seriously. Credit the refs for staying consistent. Both teams had to deal with it. UCLA lost starters Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday while the Huskies lost Marquese Chriss, Noah Dickerson and Dime. Through it all, Washington fared better in the frenetic game. The Huskies forced 25 turnovers and committed 17.
I think I am a bit dubious that this was a PAC 12 edict but more a product of the three refs -- Mike Reed, Michael Greenstein, Nate Harris - thinking the game was about them. As ESPN notes:
The Bruins were called for just nine fouls in their previous game against McNeese State on Dec. 22. They were whistled for 15 in the first half Friday.
However, while Reed, Greenstein and Harris made the game ugly and unwatchable UCLA still could have won. As Steve Alford said:
"There were a lot (of fouls), and you got to adjust and be able to handle that," Steve Alford said. "Obviously we didn't handle it very well."
Tony Parker was the one who really did not adjust.
Tony Parker had one of his worst games in recent memory as well. The senior forward/center had more turnovers - four - than made field goals - three - and missed several point-blank shots in the paint. Parker struggled to get in a rhythm all night as he and several other Bruins were plagued with foul trouble.
Of course the other story was Bryce Alford. Alford was as bad as or worse than Tony, til the end when he was Reggie Miller.
UCLA point guard Bryce Alford started the night by missing 12 of his first 13 shots, but drilled a pair of threes in the final 22 seconds of regulation to tie the game. With 16 seconds left in the extra period, the junior hit a third. These were the Bruins' only 3-pointers of the night.
Alford led the team with 30 points, but only converted five of his 21 field goal attempts. He had one assist and seven turnovers. He did, however, make 17 of 18 free throws — giving the Bruins crucial points in a game bogged down by fouls.
Bryce realizes it as well.
"It was one of the worst nights of my career going into the last couple of minutes of the game," Alford said. "You've got to have confidence you can help your team and when my team needs me I think that's when I'm best. It was unfortunate the way it started but you've got to have confidence you're going to help your team."
I will add that the late game and overtimes showed two teams that wanted to win. As a UW player noted:
"This was by far the most intense game I've played in," Thybulle said.
It was intense but ugly. As the Daily Bruin notes:
But eventually, UCLA just committed too many fouls, forcing inexperienced players into the game, and forcing the defensive strategy to change.
"Because we were in foul trouble we just couldn't play man (defense), especially in the second half," Steve Alford said. "We really couldn't could not afford to go man and get after them the way we thought we could man them, because of foul trouble we had to play a lot more zone."
However, I really hope the PAC 12 reviews these refs. They really ruined the game. Bryce's heroics earn him the last word on the refs:
"I've never seen that many called, throughout high school, throughout college," Bryce Alford said.
It turned into a slog, as if the teams were playing on ice.
Players from both teams dribbled off their own feet. Players from both teams fell down with no contact. In the middle of the first half, neither team made a field goal for almost five minutes.
That half lasted an hour, mainly because there were 29 fouls called. At one point, Washington attempted 12 free throws in between made field goals. UCLA had a five-point lead at the break.
Go Bruins! Beat the Cougars on Sunday.