The Washington Huskies have been challenging skeptics all season long. When Washington opened the season winning their first 11 games, critics charged Washington with having a "cupcake" schedule. When Pac-10 play began, many predicted the Huskies would struggle against conference opponents. After a surprising 78-71 loss to the Washington State Cougars, Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar found himself fending off reporters who questioned whether the Huskies were depending too heavily on senior Brandon Roy for much of the team's offense.
The No.13 Huskies sent a rather convincing message that they could still beat the nation's top teams even when Roy was not at his best. The Huskies overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat the No. 11 Bruins 69-65 while snapping a 19-game losing streak at Pauley Pavilion. Washington had not won at UCLA since Jan. 29, 1987.
"After not winning here for so long, it feels like a big, old accomplishment," said forward Bobby Jones. "Now hopefully we can take this back to Seattle."
With Washington leading 64-62 and 21 seconds remaining, Jones grabbed a critical rebound off a missed free throw by teammate Mike Jensen and then came through in the clutch draining two game-saving free throws for the Huskies.
Arron Afflalo responded with a three-pointer of his own, but Jones came back and hit the first of two free throws to hold off the Bruins."
Roy, who was averaging 30 points against Pac-10 opponents this season, was limited by UCLA's defense to 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting from the field, but Washington received contributions from its entire team to pull off the comeback.
UCLA owned the Huskies in the first half, gaining the upper hand with unyielding defense, solid rebounding and some unexpected offense from freshman Michael Roll. Roll scored 14 of his game-high 17 points in the first half and Afflalo added 16 points for the Bruins.
Washington, which entered the game averaging 90 points per contest, was outscored 28-40 by the Bruins in the first half. Washington's offense, however, finally came alive in the second frame. The Huskies went on a 20-10 run following the break. Jamaal Williams made a layup with 3:08 to go to rally past the Bruins 61-60 and finished the contest with 14 points.
"Obviously we haven't had success here," said Romar. "Last year, we were in the opposite position because we were the ones with the early lead. Give our guys credit. They really battled back."
Jones finished the game with 11 points and 12 rebounds, but the Huskies also received timely offense from Jon Brockman and Ryan Appleby. Brockman finished with 12 points and six rebounds while Appleby logged nine points in 20 minutes of action.
The injury-plagued Bruins lost Alfred Aboya when he sprained his knee with slightly over seven minutes to go in the first half.
With the win the Huskies regain a share of first place in the Pac-10 with the Bruins, improving to 14-2 overall and 3-2 in conference play while the Bruins fall to 14-3 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-10.
UW Statistical Leaders
Points: Williams 14, Brockman 12, Jones 11 Roy 10, Appleby 9 Jensen 5, Smith 4, Gasser2, Dentmon 2
Rebounds: Jones 12, Brockman 6, Roy 3, Jensen 3, Appleby 3, Smith 2, Dentmon 1, Williams 1
Assists: Roy 5, Dentmon 4, Appleby 3, Jones 2 Williams 2, Brockman 1
Turnovers: Dentmon 4, Jones 3, Williams 3 Jensen 2 Appleby 1
Steals: Williams, Brockman, Smith