LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — UCLA is back in a tie for first place in the Pac-12, following a two-game sweep over the Washington Huskies and Washington State.
The Bruins looked to be heading for trouble, after compromising conference losses to Arizona State (18-6, 7-4) and crosstown rival USC (11-13, 6-5) put UCLA three games out of first in the Pac-12.
#9 Arizona and #23 Oregon gave UCLA a hand in the standings when both teams lost last week to create the three-way tie for first.
The Bruins started conference play with a five-game win streak before a 76-67 loss to Oregon at Pauly Pavilion on Jan. 19 forced the team out of first place.
The back-to-back wins against Washington and Washington State marks the first time the Bruins have won consecutive games in nearly a month. UCLA’s next challenge, California (14-9, 6-5), have won three of their last four games, including big wins against both Arizona and Oregon, as the Golden Bears seem to have picked up speed in conference play and will try to avenge a 79-65 loss to the Bruins in the Jan. 3 Pac-12 opener.
“We know Cal has gotten a few big wins these last couple of weeks, and they are going to be ready to play and try to turn their season around,” freshman guard Kyle Anderson said. “We’re just going to be ready for whatever they have.”
The race for the Pac-12 title will only continue to tighten, with only seven games left for the Bruins. Five of those are on the road, and nobody is more aware of the pressure than head coach Ben Howland.
“Going into the season, I thought this thing would come down to the last weekend,” Howland said. “I still think that whoever wins our conference, it’ll be decided the last weekend of the conference.”
UCLA will face California on Thursday at 6 p.m. PT in Berkeley.