2022 for the Washington Huskies ended with a difficult two game losing streak against Auburn and USC. What better way to ring in the New Year than by hosting the #11 UCLA Bruins (12-2). The Bruins came in to Montlake averaging 79.4 ppg and have not allowed a team to score more than 66 points since November, what could go wrong? The Huskies, coming off a double-digit loss to USC, would struggle mightily shooting the ball all game and get punished for a 74 to 49 loss to the Bruins. The Huskies drop to 9-6 (1-3) and head down to Arizona for a difficult road trip starting Thursday.
The Huskies would make things a little interesting in the 1st half. Point Guard Noah Williams, who has missed significant time with an injury, would make his first start of the season since the season opener versus Weber State. PJ Fuller, who has started every game this year was not dressed for the game (undisclosed reason).
The Huskies, not known for strong 1st halves all season, was able to get out to a quick 5-2 lead early on. Noah Williams scored the first basket of the game for the Huskies off a Cole Bajema steal that led to a reverse layup for Williams in transition. Keyon Menifield would also find Keion Brooks for an easy dunk, while 7’1 Braxton Meah was making his presence felt in the post early on.
Braxton Meah would head to the bench at the under 16 time-out, which led to another stretch where the Huskies would go without a field goal for several minutes, which has plagued UW all season long. UCLA would quickly go on an 8-0 run with Meah on the bench. UW shooting would do themselves no favors during this stretch, missing several wide-open jumpers but with no threat of going to the hoop either. UCLA would jump out to a 17-6 lead and holding the Huskies without a Field goal for almost 7 minutes.
The Huskies would finally break the 12-0 run with a Braxton Meah Dunk, which was off a nice feed from Noah Williams in the paint. The Huskies would score again on a Braxton Meah Dunk as he ran the floor in transition, this time off a great pass from Freshman Koren Johnson to pull within 17-10. Johnson would add a nice floater from the baseline, but Senior Guard Tyger Campbell quickly answered with a three-pointer, his 2nd of the game.
With the Huskies poor shooting from the perimeter, the best offense was going down low to Braxton Meah on lob dunks or running in transition. Meah would score 7 of the Huskies first 14 points of the game.
The Huskies would go small at the 6:45 mark to give Meah a breather but would stay in the 2-3 zone with Keion Brooks manning the middle. Cole Bajema would get the crowd in the game with a volleyball spike block on All-American Jamie Jaquez. This would set up Koren Johnson hitting the Huskies first 3-pointer of the game with 4 minutes left in the 1st half. Bajema would follow up with a difficult layup to help UW go on a 9-0 and pull within 25 to 21.
Cole Bajema would also add a highlight play where Bajema stole the ball at half court and turned on the spin cycle to break away for a runaway dunk to get UW within 5 points late in the 1st half. The Huskies would have a chance to get within 3 as Brooks looked to be fouled on a short jumper but with no foul called. UCLA would run in transition and hit a three-pointer with UW scrambling on defense to pull out to an 8 point lead again. Tyger Campbell would add another quick 3 to pull the lead back to double digits.
The Huskies would go into half-time just trailing 9 points while only shooting 34% in the 1st half and 1-14 from 3 but had a few opportunities to pull back under 5. Conversely, UCLA would shoot 6-14 from three, which would be the difference of the 1st half.
The Huskies Struggles Continue Late in the 2nd Half
The Huskies and the Bruins would exchange turnovers to start the half. Noah Williams tried to find Braxton Meah for a lob but was intercepted by Adem Bona. Bona would run the floor to find his own lob dunk to get UCLA on the board in the 2nd half. Williams would try again to find Meah for another lob dunk and this time would be successful. Meah would score again on a strong post move to bring UW back within 9 and his only non-dunk field goal of the game.
The Huskies, already plagued with injuries this season, saw another player go down early in the 2nd half. Keyon Menifield would go down hard after knocking knees with 6’10 Adem Bona on a hard screen that left Menifield on the floor for a few minutes. To add insult to injury, UCLA would score a three-pointer on the play while Menifield was on the floor to extend the lead back out to 12 points. Didn’t look too serious but Menifield would not return and finished the game with 0 points.
Cole Bajema would add the Huskies 2nd three-pointer of the game but was immediately called for a flop. Even when the shot goes in, the Huskies still give up points. It looked like Bajema fell on Jaylen Clark’s foot and fell down but was still called for the flop.
With Braxton Meah picking up his 3rd foul, UCLA would push out to their lead to 18, after another three-pointer from Tyger Campbell. The Huskies would leave Meah in the game with 3 fouls and quickly went on his own 4-0 run to get the Huskies back within 14. Meah would follow up a Bajema miss with a nice put back dunk where it seemed like he was hanging in the air for several seconds.
That would be the final run for the Huskies as the Huskies would only score 4 more points in the next 8 minutes and UCLA would have no difficulty scoring inside or outside. Common themes in the Auburn and USC game, the Huskies again let a game get out of hand late in the 2nd half with ice cold shooting. Ice cold shooting may be generous as the Huskies finished the game shooting 2-25 from 3 (8%).
The Huskies would fail to score 50 points for the first time all season and fall to the Bruins by a final score of 74 to 49. Third straight loss at home by double digits and the lowest scoring effort for UW this season since scoring 60 points against Gonzaga.
Leading scorer Keion Brooks had his worst performance of the season and just his 2nd game of the year failing to score double digits this season. Brooks would finish with 6 points on 1-7 shooting and 0-3 from beyond the arc.
Braxton Meah would be the only player to finish with double digits, finishing with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Meah would also finish with 8 dunks and was really the only productive piece of offense all game.
Cole Bajema did chip in with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals but only 1-6 from Three. Noah Williams, struggled shooting at 2-9 but chipped in 5 assists with 4 turnovers at the PG spot as he gets back into basketball shape.
The road just gets tougher as the Huskies now go on the road to face the #5 Arizona Wildcats and a 11-3 Arizona State Sun Devil team. The Huskies move to 9-6 on the season and 1-3 in the Pac 12 and will need to come together to find some answers moving forward.