Though he says his UCLA team is deeper heading into Pac-12 play than it was in his first two seasons, coach Steve Alford believes a nine-day layoff came at a good time.
Given the way he was performing, Isaac Hamilton might have a differing opinion.
In the conference opener for both teams, the junior guard will try to pick up where he left off during a historic stretch when the No. 25 Bruins return to action Friday night in Seattle seeking their sixth consecutive victory over struggling Washington.
UCLA wrapped up a nonconference schedule that included four games against ranked opponents with a 67-53 home win over McNeese State on Dec. 22. Alford and the Bruins hope the tough slate will better prepare them for Pac-12 play after finishing second and fourth the past two seasons.
"Thirteen games in and a month and a half in, we're ready for the Pac-12 but that doesn't guarantee victories," the coach said. "It's a demanding league, the No. 1 league in the country."
The Bruins might be ready defensively after holding the Cowboys to 30.3 percent shooting while owning a 54-35 advantage on the glass. They have a plus-6.3 rebound margin ahead of facing Washington, which ranks 11th among Pac-12 teams at plus-2.8.
"There are going to be a lot of battles (in the Pac-12) and our defense is going to be key," said center Thomas Welsh, who had 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.
Hamilton led the way with 18 points and a career-high 11 boards to help UCLA (9-4) bounce back after its five-game winning streak ended with a 89-76 loss against then-No. 11 North Carolina at the CBS Sports Classic in Brooklyn.
Hamilton has averaged 18.6 points while shooting 53.6 percent from the field over his last nine games. He's also become the first Bruins player with at least eight field goals in five straight since Tracy Murray did in six consecutive games in 1991.
In the only meeting with the Huskies last season, Hamilton had 16 points while hitting 3 of 6 from 3-point range to go with 10 assists in an 88-66 home win Feb. 25.
Tony Parker also shined with 20 points in that contest, though the senior big man is looking to get back on track after scoring six on 2-of-6 shooting against the Cowboys.
After a promising 7-2 start, Washington stumbled in a 97-83 home loss to Oakland on Dec. 19 before pulling out a 79-68 victory over visiting Seattle on Dec. 22. The Huskies then suffered another disappointing home loss Monday, falling 83-78 to UC Santa Barbara.
David Crisp and Malik Dime had 17 points apiece, but Washington (8-4) shot less than 40 percent while allowing at least 80 points for the second time in three games.
"We're a new group so I feel like we have to get over that hump of finding that spark and to play with if we don't see the ball going through the hoop," Crisp said.
Andrew Andrews, who averages a team-high 19.7 points, will try to break out of his mini-slump after shooting 30.8 percent over the past three games. The senior guard has played well versus UCLA, scoring a combined 35 points in the last two meetings.
The Bruins have won five straight in this series, including the past two in Seattle. Washington, though, has won three of its past four at home versus ranked opponents.