SEATTLE — Twice this season Washington had UCLA teetering but was undone each time by costly turnovers and big shots from Bruins’ point guard Larry Drew II.
Shabazz Muhammad scored 21 points, Drew came up with another huge shot against Washington, and No. 23 UCLA clinched the Pac-12 Conference regular season title with a 61-54 win over the Huskies on Saturday.
Drew hit a game-winning jumper at the buzzer to beat the Huskies in Los Angeles last month. This time it was a driving layup with 32 seconds left that sealed what became an outright conference title for the Bruins, their third under coach Ben Howland.
But long before Drew’s driving basket, the Huskies had committed enough mistakes and missed enough shots to let UCLA (23-8, 13-5) surge ahead over the final 5 minutes.
“We battled pretty well against them and ended up coming up short because of negligence,” Washington center Aziz N’Diaye said. “We turned the ball over a couple too many times and that’s what made the difference.”
Scott Suggs led Washington (17-14, 9-9) with 14 points, but leading scorer C.J. Wilcox was just 3 of 13 for eight points and had a number of big shot attempts rim out over the final 10 minutes. His biggest miss came with about 5 minutes remaining when a 3-pointer bounced away that could have given Washington a seven-point lead. Instead, UCLA answered the miss with consecutive baskets and eventually pulled in front thanks to Muhammad.
“I thought Shabazz was great today. Shabazz is the player of the year in the conference,” Howland said. “This win hopefully hammers that home. He was phenomenal.”
Washington was hampered by turnovers again against UCLA. In their first meeting, the Huskies gave up 19 points off 19 turnovers. This time it was even worse, turning the ball over 19 times and allowing 29 points off those mistakes.
“I don’t have a lot to say. It was pretty obvious to our team and me where the difference in that game was. UCLA did a great job of forcing us into 19 turnovers, which they converted into 29 points,” Romar said. “They scored 61, so that’s right at half of their points. It’s similar to what happened at their place. That was the difference in the game right there.”
Jordan Adams added 17 points and Travis Wear had 10 for the Bruins, who avoided being swept in the state of Washington for the first time since 1993.
Down by one at the half, UCLA started the second half on a roll, hitting five of its first six shots. Adams and Muhammad combined for the first 10 points of the half as the Bruins took their largest lead at 40-33 with 16:20 left. Washington eventually worked it was back and pulled even at 45 with 8:56 left after a jumper from Abdul Gaddy and steal and layup from Andrew Andrews. Norman Powell had an open baseline drive, but N’Diaye quickly rotated and smothered the shot, leading to Suggs’ jumper in the lane that gave Washington a 47-45 lead with 7:56 left.
Muhammad briefly pulled UCLA even before N’Diaye’s three-point play and Gaddy scoring on an inbound pass for a 52-47 lead. N’Diaye added another huge block, this time on Adams and did a few push-ups while lying on the ground, but the Huskies missed three good opportunities to extend the lead — including Wilcox’s open 3 rimming out — before Kyle Anderson and Muhammad both scored to draw even at 52-all.
Washington would remain stuck on 52 for the next four minutes while UCLA took the lead on free throws from Adams and Muhammad. Wilcox had another 3 rim out before Washington’s scoring skid ended on Shawn Kemp Jr.’s lob dunk with 1:03 left — the Huskies only points over the final 5:59 — to cut the deficit to 57-54.
UCLA drained the shot clock and Drew beat Suggs off the dribble for a driving layup with 32.6 left that proved to be the clinching basket.
“We made an effort to play defense from the start,” Muhammad said. “I think in the second half we really tightened it up and they had trouble scoring.”
Kemp finished with 10 points for Washington, but eight of those came early. He was the only other Washington player in double figures.
“I don’t think we lost any confidence today but we know we need to limit our turnovers,” Suggs said. “That was a big influence today.”