There was little Markelle Fultz could do to stem the onslaught forced by the UCLA Bruins upon the Washington Huskies when these teams met in early February.
Fultz, the Pac-12’s leading scorer and the projected No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft, scored 25 points that night. UCLA, perhaps the nation’s most dynamic offensive team, won the game by 41.
“UCLA was really efficient,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar remarked, “and we weren’t very good.”
Imagine, then, how lopsided it might have been if Fultz hadn’t played.
Or if the game had been played on the road and not at sold-out Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
So, basically, imagine Wednesday night in Los Angeles, where it seems likely that Fultz will be a spectator for the Huskies’ rematch with the Bruins.
Romar didn’t rule Fultz out of Wednesday’s 8 p.m. game at Pauley Pavilion, but he didn’t seem optimistic that the star freshman would be able to play, either. Fultz, who has missed three of UW’s last five games due to a sore knee, has still not been cleared by doctors, Romar said, and would not have been able to play if this game were scheduled for Tuesday.
As for his status going into Wednesday, Romar said: “We’ve got to wait and see.”
And: “I wish I could give you more answers.”
There have been few of those for the Huskies this season. Their 79-71 defeat at Washington State on Sunday — without Fultz — extended their losing streak to 10 games, the longest such skid in program history. At 2-14 in Pac-12 play, they are guaranteed to finish this season with the worst conference record of Romar’s 15-year tenure, and must win one game this week — at either UCLA or USC, both of which will be large betting favorites — to avoid their worst record since the league switched to an 18-game schedule when it expanded from eight to 10 teams in 1978-79.
In fact, only two UW teams have ever finished a season with fewer than three conference victories. The last time it happened was in 1959-60, when the Huskies finished 15-13 overall and 2-9 in what was then the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU). And they finished 2-6 in Pacific Coast Conference play in 1916.
Their worst finish in the modern 18-game schedule era came in 1993-94, when they went 5-22 overall and 3-15 in league play during Bob Bender’s first season as coach. That was also the last time a UW team won fewer than 10 games overall.
Romar said he isn’t as concerned with the dubious nature of the losing streak itself as he is with how, exactly, the Huskies are going to end it. Especially with No. 3-ranked UCLA next on the schedule.
The effort might begin with being more patient offensively. The Huskies built a seven-point lead in the second half of Sunday’s loss at WSU but lost it, Romar said, due mostly to rushed shots that led to easy baskets for the Cougars.
“Quick, long shots on multiple possessions — you’ve got to stay away from that,” Romar said. “That will help us on the defensive end. If not, UCLA, they’ll just get the ball and they’ll get in a rhythm and they’ll just continue to score.”
Romar reiterated that Fultz’s status is in the hands of UW’s team doctors, and that if Fultz is cleared to play “he’s not going to miss one moment of anything to do with basketball.” The injury isn’t thought to be serious — “it’s just something where he would need rest,” Romar said — and the coach didn’t think Fultz hurt himself by returning to play in games against Arizona and Arizona State two weeks ago.
The prognosis is more encouraging for sophomore forward Noah Dickerson, who sustained what Romar termed a “basic ankle sprain” late in Sunday’s game at WSU. Dickerson, the team’s third-leading scorer and leading rebounder, is “doing better,” Romar said, and “should be OK to play” at UCLA.
Even if they don’t have Fultz, Romar said he anticipates better effort than he saw from his team in UCLA’s 107-66 victory earlier this season.
“I just think we’re a little different team, (with) a little different mindset than the last time we played them,” Romar said. “I think we’ll fight.”
WASHINGTON (9-19, 2-14 PAC-12) AT NO. 3 UCLA (26-3, 13-3)
8 p.m., Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles
TV: Fox Sports 1. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
All-time series: UCLA leads, 97-42.
Statistics for 2016-17:
2 Lonzo Ball, G (6-6, fr.): 14.8 ppg, 7.6 apg, 6.2 rpg.
10 Isaac Hamilton, G (6-5, sr.): 13.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg.
20 Bryce Alford, G (6-3, sr.): 16.1 ppg, 2.7 apg.
22 TJ Leaf, F (6-10, fr.): 16.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg.
40 Thomas Welsh, C (7-0, jr.): 10.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg.
1 David Crisp, G (6-0, so.): 14.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg.
23 Carlos Johnson, G (6-3, fr.): 6.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg.
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, so.): 9.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg.
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, so.): 11.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg.
33 Sam Timmins, F (6-10, fr.): 3.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg.
Scouting report: The first time these teams met this season, UCLA embarrassed the Huskies with a 107-66 victory before a sellout crowd at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. That was UW’s largest margin of defeat during coach Lorenzo Romar’s 15-year tenure, and the fourth-largest margin of defeat in program history. … There is reason to think it could be even worse this time around: not only are the Huskies on the road, but they will likely be without star guard Markelle Fultz, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, who scored 25 points with six rebounds and five assists in the first meeting. Freshman guard Carlos Johnson made his first career start in Fultz’s place on Sunday against Washington State, and led the Huskies with 17 points. ... The Bruins rank No. 1 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, and lead the country in scoring offense and assists. They still have six players who average double-figure scoring — all five starters, plus reserve guard Aaron Holiday, the younger brother of former UW forward Justin Holiday — and they shoot 51.2 percent from the field against conference opponents. The Bruins also rank third in the league in defensive field-goal percentage against Pac-12 teams, second in free-throw shooting, second in scoring margin and third in 3-point field goal percentage. … UCLA has won seven consecutive games, most recently defeating No. 4 Arizona, 77-72, in Tucson. Still, the Bruins are likely headed for a third-place finish in the Pac-12 standings, as Arizona (15-2) and Oregon (15-2) enter the week tied for first place. The Wildcats conclude their regular-season schedule against overmatched Arizona State (7-10); Oregon faces Oregon State (1-16) in its finale.