With strong defense and a team getting healthier each game, UCLA is leading the Pac-10 and enjoying its best season in years.
The 13th-ranked Bruins (20-4, 10-2) look for their sixth straight win Saturday when they visit No. 21 Washington (17-5, 6-5).
UCLA beat Washington State 50-30 on Thursday night to improve to 5-0 on the road in conference play for the first time since 1991-92, and 6-0 overall away from home this season.
The Bruins held the Cougars to 12 first-half points and 27.5 percent shooting. The total points allowed were the fewest by UCLA since beating Oregon 34-25 in 1967.
“This is one of the best defensive performances I’ve ever been a part of,” fifth-year senior Cedric Bozeman said.
Bozeman and Jordan Farmar have shaken off nagging injuries to provide the Bruins with the depth they needed to notch their first 20-win season since 2001-02.
Farmar, who still has a sprained ankle, scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half against the Cougars.
“It’s huge to have Jordan Farmar back in the lineup,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said of the sophomore, a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award which is given to the nation’s outstanding point guard. “Without him it’s a longer night.”
Farmar is averaging 13.9 points, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
During its five-game winning streak, UCLA is holding opponents to 53.2 points per contest and only 25.8 percent shooting from 3-point range. The Bruins have held three opponents under 30 percent shooting this season, and are 10-0 when holding teams under 40 percent.
This is the fastest UCLA has reached 20 wins since it went 20-1 to open 1994-95, a season the Bruins capped by winning the national championship.
Washington, seeking its first season sweep of UCLA since 1986-87, ended a three-game losing streak by cruising to an 87-73 victory over Southern California on Thursday. Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, however, was quick to point out that it won’t be so easy against the Bruins.
“We don’t have any options on Saturday. We have to do it for 40 minutes,” Romar said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating. But I’ve got to point back at myself as the head man to get it done. Tonight, it wasn’t a lack of effort. It was a lack of focus.”
Pac-10 scoring leader Brandon Roy had 25 points Thursday, his fourth straight game with more than 20.
“We’ve got to stop trying to cruise so much,” said Roy, averaging 22.8 per contest in conference games. “Right now, we’re just doing SOME of the things it takes to win.”
The Huskies, 14-2 at home, rallied from a 15-point deficit to win 69-65 at UCLA on Jan. 14 and earn their second straight victory in the series. Washington is looking to win three in a row against the Bruins for the first time since 1952, when it won the first five meetings between the teams.
UCLA leads the all-time series 87-32.