The good news for follicly challenged UCLA coach Ben Howland is that he doesn't have that much hair left to lose, or pull out.
For the second time in three nights, the Bruins on Saturday faced what seemed to be an insurmountable second-half deficit, yet found a way to win. This time, the comeback landed them their biggest victory of the season, a 95-86 win over No. 12 Washington in front of 11,970 at Pauley Pavilion.
"We have some tough kids who always show a lot of heart and character," UCLA point guard Jordan Farmar said. "We'll fight you until the very end."
The Bruins (9-3, 3-1) trailed 23-5 eight minutes into the game and but roared back in the second half behind inspired defense and a great offensive effort. The Bruins made 19 of 29 shots, sparked by better dribble penetration from their guards and some clutch perimeter shooting.
UCLA starts three freshmen, but it was two seniors who led the way in the second half. Dijon Thompson scored 19 of his game-high 29 and Brian Morrison scored all 19 of his points after halftime to help end the Huskies' winning streak at 10.
Morrison, a reserve guard, hit a fall-away jumper with 2:36 remaining to give the Bruins an 87-85 lead. UCLA led 89-86 when freshman Lorenzo Mata put back a missed jumper by Farmar with 27 seconds remaining, and Morrison then got a steal. UCLA finished the game with a 10-1 run.
In the second half, Thompson made eight of his nine attempts, and Morrison made all six of his as the Bruins rallied to win despite trailing by 14 points more than five minutes into the second half.
"It's the determination and pride we have within ourselves," Thompson said. "We refuse to lose at home. That's the goal we set for ourselves."
Nine representatives of NBA teams, including Miami Heat president Pat Riley, were on hand, and they couldn't have been disappointed with the entertaining game. The Bruins stopped the Huskies' bid to win their first game at Pauley Pavilion since 1987 despite 21 points from Nate Robinson and 19 from Tre Simmons.
Most of the scouts probably were there to see Robinson, but Thompson gave them a show, tying a career high in points, grabbing nine rebounds and leaving the court for only one minute in the second half.
"Dijon made some tough shots," Howland said. "I can't say enough about Dijon. He's playing very, very good for us right now. He's playing the best basketball of his career at UCLA."
UCLA had to rally from a 17-point second-half deficit Thursday to beat Washington State, but against a far more talented Washington (13-2, 3-1) squad, the Bruins' task was even tougher.
The Bruins trailed by 10 at halftime and were behind 65-41 less than six minutes into the second half when the light came on. Unlike the first half, when the Huskies took and made easy shots, the Bruins tightened up their defense, which led to better looks on offense and a 14-2 run.
That brought UCLA to within two points with 11 minutes remaining, and the Bruins took their first lead since 3-2 when Morrison hit a 3-pointer to go ahead 75-74 with eight minutes remaining.
"That was a great win against one of the top teams in the country," Howland said. "Our guys have a lot of heart, and the will to win is very strong in these kids."
UCLA clearly outplayed Washington for three-fourths of the game, but for a while it seemed it might not be enough.