SEATTLE — Lonzo Ball’s demeanor stayed the same, even as the buzz built around his showdown with another standout freshman in Washington’s Markelle Fultz.
It became a one-sided matchup thanks to all the other options UCLA has along with its freshman star.
Ball had 22 points while dazzling in his matchup against Fultz, Bryce Alford added 21 points and No. 11 UCLA routed Washington 107-66 on Saturday night.
The expected faceoff between Ball and Fultz — two of the best freshmen in the country and expected to be among the top picks in the NBA draft — never materialized in the way the sellout crowd hoped. While each had flashes of brilliance, Ball clearly had the better performance.
Ball finished with six rebounds, five assists and hit 7 of 12 shots, an impressive outing with 21 NBA scouts in attendance. The difference for UCLA (21-3, 8-3 Pac-12) was the other pieces around Ball. T.J. Leaf and Aaron Holiday both finished with 20 points.
“It doesn’t matter what hype he has as far as matchups and this kind of stuff. If you were with us the last two days, it was the same Lonzo each and every day. Lonzo just does what Lonzo does,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said.
Fultz led Washington (9-14, 2-9) with 25 points but got little help. He was 9 for 19 from the field and committed five turnovers.
“I don’t feel that was our basketball team tonight. I didn’t recognize our team tonight,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
The outcome was decided by UCLA’s dominant first half that led to a 52-34 advantage at the break and could have been even larger if not for a rash of sloppy turnovers.
Ball was good in those first 20 minutes. He was great for the opening moments of the second half. On three straight possessions, he knocked down 3-pointers each a few steps further behind the line than the previous. The last one came from about 25 feet and pushed UCLA’s lead to 69-43 with 16 minutes remaining.
Ball had 12 points in the first four minutes of the second half, and it was just the start of the rout. UCLA led by 44 in the closing minutes.
“We came in here focused and did what we were supposed to do,” Ball said.
While the second half became a blowout, it was UCLA’s first-half offense that exploited every deficiency for Washington at the defensive end. When the Huskies played zone, the Bruins exploited the middle and found open shots for Leaf. When the Huskies switched to man, Ball shook free off the dribble and found his teammates for easy baskets. Two of Ball’s three assists in the first half were slick lobs leading to dunks for Leaf and Ike Anigbogu.
Alford was most pleased with UCLA’s defense. The 66 points by Washington was the fewest allowed by the Bruins in the previous eight games.
“The big difference was our defense. It was by far our best. … I thought we were active, we got a lot of deflections and that led to open court play which our guy are really good in,” Alford said.
Look for UCLA to take advantage of the chaos in the rest of the AP Top 25, especially the top 10. The Bruins are likely to get a nice bump after sweeping the Washington schools on the road for the first time since 2004.
It was the worst loss for Washington in Romar’s 15 seasons as the head coach. The previous worst was a pair of 32-point loses, one in Romar’s first season and one last year. It was the second time Washington allowed 100 points in a conference game under Romar. Arizona beat Washington 106-97 in January 2009.
UCLA: The Bruins earned their 21st win earlier than any other time in school history. The previous earliest date came in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons when UCLA’s 21st win came on Feb. 7 both seasons.
Washington: While the result on the court was ugly, there was at least fan interest. Washington had its first sellout crowd since Feb. 18, 2012, vs. Arizona.
UCLA: The Bruins return home to face Oregon on Thursday night.
Washington: The Huskies travel to Colorado on Thursday night.