LOS ANGELES — Ten seconds after joy came heartbreak for the Washington Huskies on Thursday in a 59-57 loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
C.J. Wilcox, who was in a walking boot after the game because of early signs of a stress fracture, pump-faked Travis Wear and blew by to the rim for a layup with 10 seconds remaining to tie the game at 57-all.
Up the floor came UCLA.
The Bruins have Shabazz Muhammad, whom many project as the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. He scored 22 points in the game, many on easy put-backs following scrambles for loose balls.
UCLA also has Wear, who came into the game shooting 53 percent. Freshman Jordan Adams scores 15.2 points per game. Fellow freshman Kyle Anderson complicates everything with his large size and deliberate style. But none touched the ball on the final possession.
Larry Drew II, who leads the Pacific-12 Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and is more curator than creator for the Bruins, dribbled to the left elbow, elevated and hit a bucket at the horn.
His shot continued a season of what-ifs for Washington, this one a last-second loss at UCLA.
The Bruins piled on Drew in celebration while Washington players yanked their jerseys out of their shorts.
Coach Lorenzo Romar calmly walked to shake hands with Ben Howland knowing the Huskies (13-10 overall, 5-5 Pac-12) had done themselves in, once again, with turnovers.
Washington gave up the ball 19 times against UCLA (17-6, 7-3). The Huskies had 17 turnovers in a 57-53 loss to Arizona. The game prior, they had 21 in an 81-76 loss at Oregon.
“When you turn the ball over that much, you put yourself in position for somebody to throw a lob and it goes in the basket,” Romar said. “You’re at the mercy of the other team.”
Which allows something like Drew’s unlikely shot. He averages 6.3 points per game and was shooting 35 percent from the field coming into the game. After receiving a screen, he dribbled to the left elbow and stepped back. Shawn Kemp Jr., who made his third consecutive start, took blame afterward for not turning Drew back toward Abdul Gaddy after the pick and not contesting the shot well enough.
“I should have been over there quicker,” Kemp said. “Basically, that last play was on me.”
Washington’s biggest lead was four points. UCLA’s was six. The Huskies were 2-for-15 from behind the 3-point line, the misguided shots all the more crucial considering UCLA double-teamed the Huskies’ post players.
Each offense had the rhythm of a dancer with his legs tied together. Perhaps the most stunning stat was that the Bruins had 59 points on 66 shots.
Which makes this loss another unripe meal for Washington to consume.
“We had the game in our hand and let it slip away,” Aziz N’Diaye said. “We beat ourselves not taking care of the ball and not executing down the stretch.”
Little of the negative was N’Diaye’s fault, though he missed a free-throw that would have tied the game with 1:09 remaining. N’Diaye scored 11 points and claimed a career-high 18 rebounds.
Wilcox struggled from behind the 3-point line, going 0-for-6. He has not made a 3-pointer in the past two games. He also hasn’t participated fully in practice for a week because of his injured left foot.
Wilcox said he should be available Sunday against USC, that the team caught the issue early and that he wasn’t in any pain postgame. The walking boot was a precaution.
The game was bumpy from the start. Amid all the polished history in renovated Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins and Huskies tried to set basketball back several years.
In the first half, Washington committed 13 turnovers. UCLA shot 33.3 percent. The Huskies were 0-for-5 from behind the 3-point line. At one point, Scott Suggs, who picked up three fouls in the half, ran into Wilcox and they lost the ball. It led to a UCLA fastbreak and Wear dunk.
The Huskies began to get it together late in the half. A 7-0 run put them up 28-25 before Wilcox was called for a charge with 4.3 seconds remaining. Drew zipped up the floor and kicked to Norman Powell for a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer that tied the game at 28 going into the break.
Then Drew struck again at the end, leaving Washington teetering to start the second half of conference firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas