Three games. Three straight second half disasters for the Cougs.
They survived Baylor's furious comeback, yes, but we're now in danger of seeing this kind of play become a trend rather than an aberration.
However, I will say this: momentum is very overrated in sports. Over the full course of a game - more often than not - the better team distances itself from its opponent. Tonight I truly believe UCLA was the better team.
The officiating was awful; then again this seems like par for the course when Kevin Brill is a part of the crew. But you can't fault the officials for everything that happened. The only reason UCLA surpassed the Cougs in free throw rate was the foulfest down the stretch by WSU. And as bad as the men is stripes were, they put the Cougs in an opportune position by allowing fouls to accumulate quickly on Joshua Smith and Reeves "check my tatoos brah" Nelson.
Maybe WSU should have been the better team tonight. In the first half, they did almost everything right: shoot the ball well, defend and snatch around 80% of the available defensive rebounds. The only problem they had came in the form of turnovers. But given UCLA's similar problems, the Cougs quickly amassed a nice little lead.
In the second half, however, Ben Howland waved his magic wand and UCLA started to play the defense UCLA has been capable of all along this season. On top of that, they started making some perimeter shots - a recipe for disaster when you play a team as good as scoring inside the arc as the Bruins. The Cougs let Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson control this game instead of doing it themselves with Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto. That was the difference, and it was an unfortunate one.
USC on Friday becomes a big game for the Cougs. SC is a good defensive team - and perhaps better overall than UCLA. But they are a better matchup for the Cougs in that they don't force turnovers very often... and rebounding should be an easier task for WSU.
USC will be hungry, though: they missed a golden opportunity to upset Washington tonight.