Sloppy second-half defense costs Huskies

Sloppy second-half defense costs Huskies

Sloppy second-half defense costs Huskies -

Senior C.J. Wilcox tries to close out on UCLA’s Bryce Alford during the Bruins’ 91-82 win on Thursday night. Defensive lapses and turnovers in the second half killed the Huskies, who turned the ball over nine times in the final 20 minutes. 

Photo by Anastasia Stepankowsky

Down five and in need of something big, the Washington men’s basketball team got an opening. The defense shifted and left Andrew Andrews open beyond the arc for a 3-pointer.

It didn’t fall.

It was one of the many small miscues that turned into a big loss for the Huskies on Thursday night against UCLA. The UW (16-14, 8-9 Pac-12) lost 91-82 after nine second-half turnovers turned into 18 UCLA points.

“That was a classic example of playing against a team that is very talented that capitalizes on every mistake that you make,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said. “That’s what UCLA did to us.”

The UW committed four turnovers in the first half, but was sluggish after the break and committed three turnovers in the first five possessions of the second half alone, which allowed the Bruins to go on a 6-0 run and erase the UW’s four-point halftime lead.

“We just came out a little flat,” freshman Nigel Williams-Goss said. “Coming out to start the second half is something that we’ve struggled with this season. We came out and we just didn’t get stops and we were just trading baskets and some of their shots were 3-point shots and they were able to cut into the lead.”

The UW’s turnovers prevented the Huskies from separating themselves whenever they got a lead. UCLA capitalized and went up by six at the 12:47 mark off a Kyle Anderson layup.

With the momentum swinging toward the Bruins, UW freshman Darin Johnson hit a big 3-pointer for the Huskies as he was fouled. He missed the free throw but forward Desmond Simmons got the rebound and got to the line, where he converted on 1-of-2 shots to pull the Huskies back to within two points.

After a UW steal and a bucket from Perris Blackwell that tied the game at 62, Blackwell was called for a blocking foul under the basket that ignited Romar into an argument on the sideline with the official. It proved to be another turning point for the game in UCLA’s favor as the Bruins then went on a 13-4 run.

“That charge, that block charge, was one of the biggest plays,” senior C.J. Wilcox said. “It changed the momentum. It’s not an excuse, but it definitely changed the momentum of the game.”

Although the UW’s offense worked well Thursday night as the Huskies shot 55.4 percent from the field against the Bruins, the defense lagged. The Bruins countered the UW’s efficient night with one of their own, shooting 54.2 percent, led by a game-high 31 points from Jordan Adams. UCLA’s balanced attack had five double-digit scorers, including Zach LaVine, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the final 4:39 of the game to put the Huskies away.

“We just caught up into, ‘Man, this guy is a good player [and] if I leave him at all, he’s going to score,’” Romar said of the defensive struggles. “If you get two or three guys thinking that way, it can hurt. … It’s two fold, transition baskets when you turn the ball over and when we get back and we don’t switch when we’re supposed to, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

The Huskies finished the first half with a 14-5 run to take a four-point lead behind 13 first-half points from Wilcox and 10 more from Andrews.

Wilcox finished the game with a team-leading 20 points, followed by 17 points each from Williams-Goss and Andrews. Blackwell finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds and scoring 13 points.

The loss drops the Huskies into sole-possession of ninth place in the Pac-12. With one more regular season game left before the Pac-12 tournament next week, Romar said he is confident his team will bounce back.

“What’s one thing about this game is that you have two choices,” Romar said. “You can sulk about it and it gets worse the next time or you can turn the page, rally up, and come back and play better and that’s what we’ll do.”

Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @thucnhi21

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