LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins are making a habit of these comeback victories.
It was UCLA's second consecutive comeback win. The Bruins rallied from a 50-38 deficit to beat Washington State 86-83 in overtime on Thursday.
“We all believe in each other, no matter what the score is or what situation we’re in, we understand that guys can make plays,” Smith said
UCLA went on a 9-0 run to take a 58-51 lead. Tyger Campbell's steal led to a Smith 3-pointer, that gave the Bruins their first lead of the second half at 53-51 with 6:11 left. Smith and David Singleton each had 3-pointers in that run.
UCLA (15-11, 8-5 Pac-12) has won three straight games and seven of its last nine after a 1/3 start in conference play.
“It took a little time to mesh and build the chemistry we have at the moment,” Smith said. “It took a little time to figure out what (UCLA coach Mick) Cronin was preaching. Now, as you can see, we’re buying into everything Cronin is preaching, especially on the defensive end because that’s what got us back in this game and the seven games we’ve won of the last nine. It was all on defense. I don’t know when the turning point was. We take it one game at a time. We never stopped working and things are clicking now.”
The Huskies closed the first half with a 9-2 run to take a 34-27 halftime lead before Marcus Tsohonis hit a 3-pointer and Stewart threw down a dunk to make it a 12-point lead about 90 seconds after the break.
UCLA scored 11 of the next 13 points to cut its deficit to 41-38. Riley made a 3-pointer, a tough basket inside and two free throws during that stretch.
“It’s hard to score against Washington because of their length,” Cronin said. “We couldn’t get shots to go down. We let that affect us. That was the story of the game for a long time. Once we started making a concerted effort to get the ball inside against the zone, the game changed.
“If we didn’t get the ball to Cody and Jalen (Hill) inside, we would’ve never won this game. It’s not easy when you have a guy running at you who is 6-foot-9 and has his hands up.
Stewart did his part to keep Washington in the game in the second half, where he scored nine of his 15 points.
The Huskies had 18 turnovers, including 11 in the first half. Washington shot just 28.6% in the second half, and that played a big role in its undoing.
“The first half, the ball was moving as well as any time this season,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. “The second half, we kind of got out of control and they ratcheted up the defense. We really didn’t shoot the ball well, but them ratcheting up the defense was a key in the second half.”
After scoring 11 points in overtime to lift UCLA to a win over Washington State on Thursday, Riley continued to earn more playing time, though he didn’t start.
He’s been a big contributor in both games.
“It just makes me happy I was able to contribute to the team and help us win a game,” Riley said. “It’s not more to it than that. At the end of the day I want to win. We’ll do whatever it takes. If it takes me stepping up sometimes. One game it’s me. Next game it’s someone else. We have a lot of players on the team that can do it.”
This was UCLA’s first regular season sweep of Washington since the 2016-17 season.
Stewart tied the school record for blocks by a freshman in a single season. Stewart has 55 blocks this season, as did Marquese Chriss in the 2015-16 season.
Washington: The season is almost over for the Huskies and there are five games left to work on defense and offensive sets. Wins are nice but the Huskies need to improve for next season.
UCLA: The Bruins are becoming known as the comeback kids but they’ll have to figure out those poor first halves before the Pac-12 Tournament and, potentially, the NCAA Tournament.
Washington plays at home the next three games, starting with a game against Stanford on Thursday.
UCLA plays at Utah on Thursday and Colorado on Saturday in its final Pac-12 road trip of the season.
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