BRUINS MISSING IN ACTION WITHOUT KEY RESERVE ABOYA, UCLA LOSES WASH. 61, UCLA 51.
SEATTLE -- Arron Afflalo said it time and again, and so did Darren Collison. They are UCLA's leaders, but both said throughout the season how, despite the team's star power, every member was invaluable.
A theory that might have fallen on deaf ears before it was made loud and clear Saturday in the No.2 Bruins' 61-51 loss against the Washington Huskies, when the Bruins showed the razor-thin line between UCLA being one of the nation's elite teams and just another good team.
With backup Alfred Aboya and his 17 minutes per game on the bench with a knee injury, UCLA was pounded on the boards, lacked the type of intensity Aboya usually helps generate, and ended the regular season with a loss in front of 10,000 at Bank of America Arean.
The loss ended a five-game winning streak, but it doesn't figure to affect the Bruins' chances of being a No. 1 seed in the West in the NCAA Tournament -- providing top-seeded UCLA doesn't exit next week's Pacific-10 Tournament early.
Still, the sting of losing here for the third straight season was felt harshly.
"We didn't play hard enough," UCLA center Lorenzo Mata said. "That's something we have to do every game. We have to play harder than our opponent, and it's something we didn't do."
The Bruins (26-4, 15-3 Pac-10) did not excuse their lack of energy on circumstance, namely wrapping up the Pac-10 title Thursday at Washington State, which rendered this game meaningless.
"We didn't come out ready to play," said Afflalo, UCLA's junior guard. "I don't know why. They out-physicaled us, they outplayed us in every aspect of the game, and it's embarrassing. I don't know what we were resting on. There's no excuse to come in on national television and not compete for 40 minutes."
When UCLA lost at West Virginia without Collison, the starting point guard, it was understandable. But to have a game altered substantially because a key reserve did not play speaks toward the Bruins' vulnerability.
Aboya, UCLA's top reserve at power forward and center, averages 4.3 points and 4.4rebounds per game, and he also brings intangibles in experience and toughness, which the Bruins clearly lacked.
Washington's dynamic inside duo of power forward Jon Brockman (20 points, 13 rebounds) and center Spencer Hawes (13, 15) combined for 33points and 28 rebounds and led the Huskies (18-12, 8-10) to a 15-rebound advantage (44-29).
UCLA center Ryan Wright and power forward James Keefe, who teamed to replace Aboya, scored two points, committed four fouls and failed to grab a rebound.
"They didn't get a rebound between the two of them in 14minutes," UCLA coach Ben Howland said when asked to assess the play of Aboya's replacements.
Mata and power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute were forced to play alone inside, without much of a break against the bullish Brockman and Hawes. Mata and Mbah a Moute combined for 15 points and 15 rebounds.
"It hurts when anybody's out, especially Alfred," Collison said. "He brings our toughness and that physicality into the game. He's willing to lay a body, do whatever it takes to get the victory, or get a rebound. We got out-boarded, and that was basically the difference right there."
Wright and Keefe were so ineffective, Howland played them four combined minutes in the second half. Howland also went nearly eight minutes, a large chunk of it when UCLA cut a 48-32 lead to 52-51 with 2:54 to play, without making a substitution.
And UCLA's rebounding deficiencies were accentuated when Hawes' tip-in of Justin Dentmon's missed shot gave the Huskies a 54-51 lead, and slowed the Bruins' momentum.
"We missed Alfred," Afflalo said. "Where we got beat, on the rebounds, is what he brings to our team. We need everybody on this team to be ready to play."
Josh Shipp had a chance to tie it on UCLA's next possession, but his 24- foot, 3-point attempt, which Howland said was "too far" of a shot, missed the mark with two minutes remaining.
"We missed a lot of block outs that led to second-shot opportunities," Howland said. "Did we miss Alfred? Yes, absolutely, we missed him. But does he make up 15 (rebounds)? Absolutely not."
Shipp led UCLA with 13 points, Afflalo added 12 and Collison had five as he labored through a 2-for-15 shooting display.
UCLA, which missed its first seven shots and trailed 9-0 nearly six minutes in, scored a season-low 20 points in the first half and suffered through a horrific shooting 31.3 percent overall.
"They were more patient than we were in the half-court offense," Howland said. "When that happens, and we we're taking quick shots -- I expected to come out and play really good, and we didn't."
Perhaps the best news for UCLA is Aboya said he expected to play Thursday in the Pac-10 Tournament.
(1 -- color) UCLA's Lorenzo Mata walks off thecourt after the Bruins lost to Washington on Saturday.
John Froschauer/Associated Press
(2) UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute tries to find room between Washington's Jon Brockman, left, and Spencer Hawes.
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 4, 2007|
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