March 9, 2001
SEATTLE (AP) - In December, UCLA was focused on just qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Now the No. 13 Bruins have a chance to further their case for a top-three seed when they wrap up Pac-10 play at Washington.
UCLA (21-7, 14-3) pulled within one game of the conference lead Thursday with an 86-76 win over Washington State. Jason Kapono scored 28 points as the Bruins rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to win their 19th straight against the Cougars.
"It could have been a blowout, but we did a good job of keeping our poise and scratching our way back in the game," Lavin said. "We were fortunate to come back."
UCLA still has a chance to share the Pac-10 crown, but must beat Washington and have No. 1 Stanford lose to Arizona State on Saturday. However, the Bruins cannot earn the conference's automatic bid.
Still, the Bruins are hoping they've already done enough to earn one of the top three seeds from the NCAA tournament selection committee. UCLA has a Ratings Percentage Index ranking of 6 and has lost just once in its past nine contests. Two of the main criteria for selection and seeding are a team's RPI and its performance in its last 10 regular season games.
Kapono, a sophomore forward who last summer declared for the NBA draft but later withdrew at the deadline, leads UCLA with 17.4 points per game. Senior center Dan Gadzuric leads in rebounding with 7.1 per game and senior guard Earl Watson tops the team in assists with 5.1 per contest.
Washington (9-20, 3-14) will be looking to pull off a major upset to end its season. The Huskies' losing streak reached eight games with a 85-56 hammering at the hands of Southern California on Thursday.
Will Perkins scored 19 points as the Huskies reached the 20-loss mark for the first time since 1993-94, coach Bob Bender's first season at the school.
Washington will play without starting center Marlon Shelton, who tore a knee ligament going for a rebound Thursday.
The Huskies have not fared well against the Bruins, losing 24 of the last 29 meetings. However, Washington won the last matchup, pulling off a 63-62 upset of then-No. 24 UCLA on Jan. 6, 2000 at Seattle.