LOS ANGELES -- Long after most at Pauley Pavilion had gone home happy, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar approached a television crew on the court about getting one more look at the play that could end up defining the Huskies' season.
Romar ultimately came away satisfied that the buzzer-beater counted and that the clock had started on time, but he was also left with an indelible image. One Washington defender nearly jumped out of his shoes and helplessly flew by as UCLA's Mustafa Abdul-Hamid sank the game-winning jumper.
That successful little pump fake the former walk-on Abdul-Hamid said he borrowed from Kobe Bryant essentially sums up Washington's year of inconsistency thus far.
Now you see it, now you don't.
"Going for a shot fake is at that point is a lack of discipline," Romar said. "Our approach every game we can be prepared and ready to go, but mentally, we really have to grasp that there’s another team out there to take your lunch, take your lunch money.
"They're looking to take you out. You can't just show up. All that's part of growing up."
Last March, the Huskies cut down the nets and could finally call themselves champions after capturing their first outright Pac-10 title in school history by going through the conference with only four losses. On Saturday, Washington wearily lost its fifth conference game of the season in a 26-point USC blowout and is all alone in eighth place.
Guard Quincy Pondexter, the team's lone senior, cried after the UCLA game two nights earlier. He said he had trouble sleeping after the game and then scored a season-low two points against USC after going into the game averaging 20.4.
"It just hurts," Pondexter said. "I never thought in a million years that we would lose like this. Every time we lose, I don't take it well. That's me. It hurts. It really hurts."
Washington has lost all six games away from Bank of America Arena and its raucous student section. Consecutive 17-point losses at the Arizona schools dropped the Huskies out of the rankings, and getting swept in Los Angeles only furthers the notion that they wilt outside of Seattle.
Youth is a factor in the team playing less aggressively and disciplined on the road, according to Romar, and the team clearly misses Jon Brockman's presence as well.
"The attitude and his approach to practice and games and his team and teammates, those are things that you miss just as much, if not more, than the rebounding and scoring," Romar said.
"We've got to get to a point where every time we step on the floor, it's war, business. We have to understand the importance of every possession out on the floor. Right now, we have had trouble understanding that."
Coming off a conference championship, expectations are high with Romar aspiring to a program that sustains its success. For now, the Huskies, losers of five of their last seven games, need to get over their hangover just to make it back to the NCAA tournament.
"We haven't taken care of business, and that hurts more than anything," Pondexter said. "Coach Romar has done everything for us to put ourselves in a position to take care of business. I don't know what it is."