SEATTLE — Mick Cronin will find plenty of mistakes to pick at when he goes back to watch UCLA’s latest film.
Despite the issues, Cronin was thrilled to escape with a win after how the past week has gone for the Bruins.
“Especially in conference play you got to play defense, so really proud of our effort,” Cronin said. “Just proud of the way our guys competed.”
Johnny Juzang scored 21 of his career-high 32 in the first half, and UCLA snapped a two-game losing streak holding off Washington 64-61 on Saturday night.
Juzang was the entirety of UCLA’s offense in the first half, and got just enough help from teammates over the final 20 minutes to hold off Washington’s late rally. Juzang made 12 of 23 shots and his big night helped counter a terrible performance at the free-throw line by the Bruins.
Juzang said he hopes the win can build momentum for the final few weeks of the regular season after the Bruins suffered consecutive losses to USC and Washington State.
“Let’s change the course of the rest of the season,” Juznag said. “Just kind of a mentality, intensity level, team focus and togetherness, that was the biggest takeaway from tonight.”
Juzang was mostly quiet in the second half but his basket in the lane with 54 seconds left gave UCLA a 61-57 lead. Erik Stevenson answered with a 3 for Washington, but Jules Bernard hit a jumper from the top of the lane with nine seconds left to push the lead to three.
After each team split free throws, Quade Green missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer trying to force overtime.
Bernard finished with 14 points for the Bruins, the only other player in double figures. UCLA (14-5, 10-3 Pac-12) had lost three of four after starting conference play 8-0.
“The coaches had things to say to get us in the right mind frame and going in the right direction,” Juzang said. “I think the biggest part was everybody was now on the same exact page, because you’re in a sink or swim situation with the postseason.”
Marcus Tsohonis led Washington (3-16, 2-12) with 22 points off the bench, all coming in the second half. Tsohonis made six 3-pointers, but it wasn’t enough to snap Washington’s five-game losing streak. Green added 14 points for the Huskies.
“I felt like in that second half we all together played extra hard,” Tsohonis said. “It was kind of rough in the beginning because we put ourselves in a hole again, but we were getting stops. It’s just about keep getting better and keep playing hard because even though we lost tonight it showed we can play with anybody.”
Juzang scored the final 18 points of the first half for UCLA. But the Bruins missed a chance to turn the game into a blowout in the opening minutes. After jumping out to an 11-0 lead, the Bruins went nearly 10 minutes without scoring.
Juzang’s basket with 7:08 left in the half finally snapped the drought, but even his 15 points over the final seven minutes could only give the Bruins a 26-20 lead at halftime.
UCLA built a 44-34 lead midway through the second half, but Washington continued to chip away. The Huskies pulled even at 57 with 2:47 left on Tsohonis’ final 3-pointer, but Washington could never take the lead.
UCLA: The free-throw line nearly cost the Bruins. UCLA was averaging 73.5% at the line for the season entering the game, but were just 6 of 18 at the line. The 33% free-throw shooting was a season-worst for UCLA. The previous low was 37.5% in the loss to USC last week, but the Bruins attempted just eight free throws in the loss.
“I’ve never seen a team win a game 6 of 18 from the foul line, in a conference game on the road,” Cronin said.
Washington: Tsohonis continued his streaky conference season. Tsohonis now has four games of 20 or more points in conference play. He’s also had five games scoring in single digits.
The Huskies will host Stanford on Thursday.