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What we learned this week in Pac-12 basketball

Norman Powell and the Bruins highlighted the past week in the Pac-12 with their upset over Utah.

Norman Powell guided UCLA to two victories in the Pac-12 this week.
Norman Powell guided UCLA to two victories in the Pac-12 this week.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA has hope

The Bruins finally got a statement win on Thursday night when they took down the Utes 69-59. UCLA has the sixth-best defensive efficiency in conference play, but they turned it up against Utah and let that unit lead them to an upset. Norman Powell anchored the group and contained Delon Wright and led the Bruins in scoring with 23 points. Utah didn't exactly put forth the most energized effort, but UCLA deserves credit as they limited an offense that averages 74 points per game and is top 25 in the nation in efficiency to 59 points. Utah averaged 1.00 points per possession and committed 14 turnovers.

After taking down Utah, the Bruins didn't suffer a letdown as they beat Colorado 72-59. Powell scored 22 points and led UCLA once again. The two victories give the Bruins a chance, albeit very slim, to make the NCAA Tournament. It's highly likely that the Pac-12 will only get three teams in, barring an underdog winning the Pac-12 Tournament, but if there were one team that has the talent to go on a run, it's UCLA.

And their remaining schedule is favorable. It features a road trip to the Bay Area, home games against the Oregon schools, on the road against the Arizona schools and a three-game home finale with the Washington schools and the Trojans. The only sure loss seems to be at Arizona. UCLA could go 8-1 over their final nine games, especially if they play the way they did this past week, which would put them on the bubble and in contention for at an-large bid.

Washington implodes as expected

With the dismissal of Robert Upshaw, it was obvious Washington would miss his size. Stanford exploited Washington right from the start in their 84-74 victory on Wednesday. Stefan Nastic had 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half after scoring only 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting in their first matchup. The Cardinal had 18 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes which equaled its total from the first meeting and that went to overtime.

To follow that up, the Huskies suffered a brutal 90-88 loss to Cal after Sam Singer hit a game-winning three. They also gave up 90 points to an offense that is averaging 69 points a game and is the 249th most efficient in the country. After being one of the best stories in the Pac-12, the Huskies have fallen incredibly far. Obviously, Washington misses their big man.

Oregon has performed better than expected

Oregon was manhandled by Arizona 90-56, but managed to pull out a nail-biter over Arizona State 68-67 in overtime this week. Although the execution down the stretch from both teams wasn't pretty, the Ducks pulled out a road split. They haven't done anything particularly noteworthy this year, but it's impressive that they're tied for fourth in the Pac-12 halfway through the season.

With only Joseph Young, Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Elgin Cook as holdovers from last year's team, I assumed that the Ducks would finish in the lower half of the Pac-12. But once again Dana Altman is outperforming expectations. The emergence of Jordan Bell, who has the 16th best block rate in the country, along with Dillon Brooks, who is second on the team in scoring, has turned the Ducks into a decent team.

Askia Booker is no stranger to taking over

In the Buffaloes' triple overtime 98-94 victory over USC, Askia Booker went off. He had 43 points on 13-of-23 shooting and singlehandedly gave Colorado their first road win of the season. The Buffaloes slowly started to foul out as the game progressed into extra periods, which just gave Booker more reason to shoot. But that was also what made this game so fun to watch. He shot the ball every time down the floor and everyone knew it was coming. In the three overtimes, Booker had 19 points and went 6-of-10 from the field. He is a relentless player that certainly doesn't lack confidence and these types of performances are a reason to watch Colorado despite their lack of success this season.