The UCLA Bruins visit Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Jan. 1. 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.
The magnitude of this disaster — an 83-78 loss before a stunned crowd of 7,376 — is amplified by the fact that league play begins next week, and the Huskies will greet that schedule having lost two of their final three games in nonconference play.
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 minutes 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.
UW made 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.
But UCSB’s Mitch Brewe, with the shot clock running down, missed a short runner, snagged the offensive rebound and put it back in to put UCSB back ahead by four points. The Gauchos made a pair of free throws to make it a six-point lead.
Crisp hit a 3-pointer to trim the lead back to three, and the Huskies had a chance to tie it when Dime blocked a shot at the rim and Andrews ran the other way with it. But the senior guard missed an off-balance 3, UCSB grabbed the rebound, and UW had to foul with 17.5 seconds left.
The Gauchos made all four of their free throws in the final 18 seconds — including two by Brewe, a Seattle Prep alum who finished with 11 points — to clinch their first road victory over a Pac-12 school since December 2003.