Washington just needed to slow down.
UW (18-4, 9-0 Pac-12) knew early in its 69-55 victory over UCLA that the pace was too fast. The Huskies were pushing the ball, trying — and often failing — to break UCLA’s full-court press. It didn’t help that they were feeding off the excitement pulsating from the sold-out crowd inside Alaska Airlines Arena. They didn’t handle the energy well for most of the first half. It made their play erratic, sloppy.
The Bruins (12-10, 5-4) didn’t fair much better. The teams combined for 29 turnovers in the first half, and nine of them happened in the first five minutes alone.
“We had I don’t even know how many turnovers back-to-back-to-back,” said UW point guard David Crisp. “Everything was just happening so fast.”
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The Huskies had 11 turnovers in the first half. UCLA had 18. But it was the Bruins who took advantage early, scoring 10 points off UW’s first seven turnovers. And it was the Bruins, too, who grabbed the first lead.
After a Prince Ali 3-pointer gave UCLA a 12-4 advantage with 15:48 left in the first half, Husky head coach Mike Hopkins immediately called timeout. He told his players to relax, to take their time, to find their composure.
When UW returned to the floor, there was an immediate difference. The Huskies clawed back into the game, tying the score at 20 with just more than 5 minutes left before halftime. Then they outscored UCLA 11-3 over the remainder of the half to take a 31-23 lead into the break.
That stretch was pivotal, said guard Matisse Thybulle.
“It gave us a chance to slow down,” he said. “Like (Crisp) was saying, we were just playing too fast. We were sped up. When we were able to get on that run, we kind of took over the space of the game. When we got the pace, we’re under control. We make the right reads and make the right decisions.”
Said Hopkins: “At the end of halves, you get the momentum. When you’re not playing well to be able to have an eight point lead at home was huge. We knew we were going to be in good position.”
UW then opened the second half on an 8-2 run.
After Noah Dickerson made a foul shot, Crisp scored on a driving layup. UCLA’s Kris Wilkes then hit a turnaround jumper before Dominic Green sank a second-chance 3-pointer for UW. When Jaylen Nowell added a jumper, it put UW ahead by 14 points, 39-25, with 16:27 remaining.