The UCLA Bruins visit Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Friday. UCLA has beaten Kentucky. UCLA has beaten Gonzaga. So, it can be safely assumed that UCLA will play a more challenging style of basketball than UC-Santa Barbara.
The Gauchos, owners of a 3-7 overall record prior to Monday’s game against the Washington Huskies, should have represented to UW a final tuneup before the start of Pac-12 play.
Instead, the Huskies got tuned up, at home, by a team from the Big West conference.
The magnitude of this disaster — an 83-78 loss before a stunned crowd of 7,376 — is amplified by the fact league play begins later this week, and the Huskies will greet that schedule having lost two of their final three games in nonconference play.
The first of those two losses came to Oakland, another team from a mid-major league.
“There’s no better teacher than experience,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “I think our guys learned some valuable lessons. At this level, you fear no one but you respect everyone, and Santa Barbara just came in here and took the game from us, which is what we told the team they were capable of doing.”
They trailed for nearly the entire game, and UCSB clinched it on a pair of free throws with 9.2 seconds remaining.
Again, the Huskies struggled against a zone defense, too often settling for 3-pointers — they made only 6 of 27 — instead of trying to attack the middle. They missed their first nine field goals of the game and didn’t make a basket in the first eight minutes, falling behind 13-3 before Noah Dickerson finally ended the drought with a layup.
The Huskies eventually woke up and took a 32-29 lead following a dunk by Malik Dime, but UCSB ended the half on a 9-4 run and led 38-36 at the break.
The start of the second half was similar to the first. UW needed a little more than 4 min utes to make its first field goal after halftime, at which point the Huskies trailed by 10 points.
They had to claw back. Dejounte Murray, who finished with 15 points, scored on a pair of putbacks and threw a lob to Dime for an alley-oop dunk. David Crisp swished a 3-pointer. Murray scored twice more, on a layup and a one-handed transition dunk, and Dime dunked again to cut UCSB’s lead to 54-53 with 10:58 to play. Crisp and Dime led UW with 17 points each.
But the Gauchos had an answer for everything. They took a 10-point lead with a little more than 5 minutes remaining thanks to a steal and a pair of free throws by leading scorer Michael Bryson, who also made a long 3-pointer near the end of the shot clock a few possessions prior. He finished with 17 points.
“We can’t trade buckets,” Crisp said. “That team, they’re a good offensive team and they’re real efficient. We can’t trade buckets. We’ve got to get stops.”
UW did make another run. Crisp hit a 3 to cut the lead to four. After UCSB was called for a charge, Andrew Andrews drew a foul and made both free throws to make it 73-71 with 2:43 to play.
The Gauchos made all four of their free throws in the final 18 seconds — including two by Mitch Brewe, a Seattle Prep alum who finished with 11 points — to clinch their first road victory over a Pac-12 school since December 2003.
Crisp and Dime both insisted UW will be ready for UCLA on Friday.
“We’re not going to let it get to us,” Crisp said. “We’re already turning the page. Obviously we would have wanted to come out with a win, but we’ve got to turn the page and get ready for UCLA, and bring our ‘A’ game.”
That would certainly be an upgrade from what they displayed Monday.
GAME IN REVIEW
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Michael Bryson, UCSB’s leading scorer, led his team with 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line. He made a big 3-pointer and had a big steal in the second half that helped the Gauchos maintain their lead.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – Andrew Andrews leaned into an off-balance 3-point attempt that would have tied the game with 22 seconds left — it appeared he might have been trying to draw a foul — and UCSB rebounded the miss. The Gauchos made a pair of free throws after the Huskies fouled, and UW didn’t have a chance after that.
STAT OF THE GAME – The Huskies made only 6 of 27 (22.2 percent) from 3-point range against UCSB’s zone defense.
QUOTABLE – “We’re a new group, so I feel like we have to get over that hump of finding that spark to play with if we don’t see the ball going through the hoop. If we don’t see the ball going through, sometimes we get down on ourselves, and that can’t happen.” – UW guard David Crisp
WHAT IT MEANS – Nothing good. UCSB was picked to finish second in the Big West this season, but the Gauchos were 3-7 and certainly a team the Huskies should beat at home. This is the second home loss for UW to a team from a non-power conference this season, and this one has to sting even more than the 97-83 loss to a quality Oakland team. The Huskies have to stop allowing so many easy baskets and improve their shot selection.
UP NEXT – UCLA at Washington, 8 p.m. Friday, Hec Edmundson Pavilion, FOX Sports 1