UCLA-Washington Preview

The Associated Press

It's been safe to assume UCLA would come away with a win and a loss from its annual Pacific Northwest trip in recent years given its startling consistency - both good and bad - at both stops.

Right now, the 23rd-ranked Bruins would be happy to settle for a split.

UCLA faces a Saturday morning tip-off looking to bounce back from a rare loss in Pullman when it visits Seattle, where it will try to snap an eight-game road skid against Washington and earn at least a share of the Pac-12 title.

The Bruins (22-8, 12-5) had won four straight and were tied atop the conference with Oregon heading into Wednesday's visit to Washington State, where they had won 19 in a row.

This time, UCLA fell behind 25-4 and could never recover, shooting 38.6 percent in a 73-61 loss that had coach Ben Howland concerned.

"We didn't come out with the emotion and intensity that we needed," Howland said. "We didn't have the sense of urgency when so much was riding on the line for us."

That put Oregon a half-game ahead for the conference's top spot, but the Ducks gave it right back with a 76-53 loss at Colorado on Thursday. Oregon owns the tiebreaker over UCLA thanks to a win in the teams' lone meeting, but the Bruins can grab the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament with a win Saturday and a Ducks' loss at Utah.

A victory in this game - with an 11 a.m. local start time - would at worst give UCLA a share of its first league title since 2007-08 and a top-two seed next week in Las Vegas, but trips to Seattle haven't usually gone well for the Bruins. They won their first visit there under Howland in overtime in January 2004, but have lost the last eight by an average of 10.5 points.

These teams played a thriller at Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 7, with the Huskies (17-13, 9-8) tying the score on a drive by C.J. Wilcox with 10 seconds left. But Larry Drew II made a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer to give UCLA a 59-57 victory despite his team shooting a season-worst 33.3 percent and being outrebounded 46-36.

Shabazz Muhammad had a game-high 22 points but needed a season-high 23 shots to do so, and he's also struggled with his shot in the Bruins' past two games. The star freshman, averaging 18.1 points, is 10 of 34 (29.4 percent) in March and 4 of 16 from beyond the arc.

Washington's loss to UCLA last month was part of a 2-8 stretch, but coach Lorenzo Romar's team is playing better of late. It overcame 36.1 percent shooting for its third straight win Wednesday, 65-57 over USC, largely thanks to a 48-29 rebounding edge.

"We're definitely getting close to playing the way that we're supposed to play, especially at the right time," Wilcox said. "Our team usually does it but we start a little late; it seems like we're starting to get the ball rolling."

Wilcox is one of two underclassmen in Romar's starting five, and Saturday marks the home finale for senior guards Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy and center Aziz N'Diaye.

Suggs is certainly going out with a bang. He's averaged 19.0 points on 63.6 percent shooting during the current win streak.

"It hasn't really hit me yet (that it's my last home game), but the game should be fun," he said.

UCLA might need to be even more concerned with N'Diaye, who pulled down a career-high 18 boards in last month's meeting. The Bruins have been outrebounded in 10 straight games, posting a dreadful minus-9.4 margin in that stretch.

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