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Originally published Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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UW Men | Struggling Huskies face No. 5 Bruins

The Washington Huskies will take the court today at Edmundson Pavilion trying to figure out how they could have lost three in a row at home...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

UCLA @ Washington,

1:30 p.m., FSN

The Washington Huskies will take the court today at Edmundson Pavilion trying to figure out how they could have lost three in a row at home.

"I wish I knew what it was so I could fix it," forward Jon Brockman said Thursday after the Huskies lost to USC, 73-59. "But I don't know what it is."

UCLA coach Ben Howland will enter the arena with a different three in a row on his mind — a trio of losses the last three seasons for the Bruins in Seattle. Washington and UCLA tip off at 1:30 p.m. in a game moved to Sunday for a national telecast on FSN.

Washington is one of just two Pac-10 teams against whom Howland doesn't have a winning record since taking over at UCLA in 2003. The Huskies are 5-5 against the Bruins in that span (UCLA is 4-5 against Stanford).

So while the current records of the two teams might suggest little cause for worry — UCLA comes to town 21-2 and ranked No. 5 — the Bruins coach remains only wary.

"You know we are going to get their best shot," Howland said Friday. "They are a team that is going to be very, very fired up and is going to come out and play really hard and really determined."

The Huskies have little choice if they are to avoid what could be a rock-bottom afternoon. Washington has lost four in a row, the last three at home in a four-game homestand the team entered with high hopes.

Instead, UW has dropped to 12-11 overall, 3-7 in Pac-10, and is entering the toughest part of the schedule. After today, five of the final seven conference games are on the road.

"We aren't going to win any more games playing like that," Brockman said moments after the USC game.

Even the best effort today might not be good enough to beat a Bruins team that appears to be peaking. UCLA has won five in a row since its lone conference loss Jan. 19 to USC, three on the road, by an average of 16.5 points.

"We've just been improving," Howland said.

No one more than freshman center Kevin Love, who was plenty good already. The 6-foot-10, 271-pound center has bettered his numbers in almost every statistical category since Pac-10 games began, averaging 19.4 points in conference (compared to 17.7 for the season), 12.3 rebounds (11.1) and shooting 66 percent (61.6).

"He's a great player getting better and better," Howland said.

Love's lowest points (11) and rebounds (seven) in conference each came in the first meeting against UW, a 69-55 Bruins win Jan. 10 at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins got a boost in that game from forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who scored 17 and helped hold UW guard Ryan Appleby scoreless.

Mbah a Moute, who hasn't scored more than six in a game since, is not on the trip after spraining his ankle last weekend. Alfred Aboya, a 6-foot-9 junior, will start alongside Love, forward Josh Shipp and guards Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, meanwhile, said his lineup will likely be the same as it has for the last eight games despite the team's recent slump. The coach said Friday he had been "caught off-guard" by the team's struggles and took the blame.

"There's got to be something that I'm not doing to put us in this position," he said.

A reporter Friday noted that UW outscored UCLA 32-28 in the second half of the first meeting and wondered if Romar might be able to find something there that would help today. Romar said that happened a long time ago.

"We were playing better basketball then," he said.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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