UCLA Second to None

Times Staff Writer

The formula has become painfully familiar. For 20 minutes, the UCLA Bruins stumble and fumble, turn the ball over, shoot poorly, play shabby defense and head to the locker room for intermission with their heads down.

But somehow, through meetings and self-reflection, shaking off their disappointment and tightening their resolve, the Bruins seem to return to the floor with their heads high and their swagger re-established.

So it was again Thursday night at Haas Pavilion, where the Bruins, after trailing by 11 at the half, got back into the game and all the way to at least a share of their first Pacific 10 Conference title in nine seasons.


UCLA defeated the California Bears, 67-58, in overtime, led by guard Arron Afflalo, who scored 21 of his 25 points after intermission, and the stifling defense that has become a UCLA trademark this season under Coach Ben Howland.

The Bruins scored the last 12 points and held the Bears to three points in overtime.

UCLA held Leon Powe, Cal’s leading scorer, to only five points after intermission. Powe had scored 15 in the first half.

The Bruins (23-6) are 13-4 in conference. Only the Washington Huskies can catch them, and for that to happen, UCLA would have to lose its conference finale Saturday against Stanford and Washington would have to beat Arizona.

“This was a great gut check win for our team, our program,” Howland said.

But while he may have been thrilled by the victory, he wasn’t excited about needing yet another comeback.

“We’ve got to stop doing that,” Howland said. “We were doing way too much dribbling in the first half. We were too amped up, trying to do too much.”

As euphoric as the victory was for UCLA, it was a crushing loss for the Bears (17-9, 11-6 in conference), who came into the game with a chance to tie for the conference lead.


It has been nearly a half-century since a season ended with the Bears atop their conference..

So long ago that Pete Newell was the Bears’ coach, John Wooden the Bruins’ coach.

So long ago that UCLA had yet to win its first NCAA championship.

It was the 1959-60 season, Cal going 28-2, 11-1 in conference. The Bears went on to reach the NCAA championship game, where they lost to Ohio State.

The Bruins had to be concerned coming into Haas Pavilion considering Powe, the team’s 6-foot-8, 240-pound offensive leader, had scored only five points (making only one of seven shots) in their first meeting this season and the Bears still came away with a 68-61 victory at Pauley Pavilion.

Imagine what would happen if Cal could unleash Powe.

It didn’t take long for the Bruins to find out.

Four minutes into the game, Powe had already equaled his total from the earlier meeting on three free throws and a short jumper, scoring the Bears’ first five points of the game.

The Bruins, who had failed to score 30 points in the first half of their last five games, barely made it to 20 Thursday night.

The game was tied at 20, but Cal scored 11 unanswered points to finish out the half.

In its last two games, against Oregon and Oregon State, UCLA outscored the opposition 99-53 in the second half to pull out games the Bruins trailed at intermission.


Thursday, they did it again.

UCLA scored the first seven points of the second half and nine of the first 12.

Freshman guard Darren Collison’s two free throws pushed the surging Bruins, on a 17-5 run, into the lead at 37-36.

After Afflalo connected on a pair of free throws, the Bruins had the ball with 30 seconds left a 55-52 lead.

But the Bruins couldn’t hold it. With 27.7 seconds remaining, Cal guard Theo Robertson hit a three-pointer from the corner to tie the score.

Having already burned all their timeouts, the Bruins came down and worked for the last shot. Jordan Farmar missed a short jumper, and the Bears corralled the rebound as time in regulation expired.

In the overtime, UCLA outscored Cal 12-3, the Bears’ only points coming on a three-pointer by Ayinde Ubaka to open the five-minute period.



Bruin champions

Men’s basketball conference championships won by UCLA, by head coach:

* Under Wilbur Johns (1) -- 1944-45

* Under John Wooden (16) -- 1949-50, 1951-52, 1955-56, 1961-62 through 1964-65, 1966-67 through 1974-75


* Under Gene Bartow (2) -- 1975-76, 1976-77

* Under Gary Cunningham (2) -- 1977-78, 1978-79

* Under Larry Farmer (1) -- 1982-83

* Under Walt Hazzard (1) -- 1986-87

* Under Jim Harrick (3) -- 1991-92, 1994-95, 1995-96

* Under Steve Lavin (1) -- 1996-97

* Under Ben Howland (1) -- 2005-06


Leaders of the Pac

UCLA clinched at least a share of its eighth Pacific 10 men’s basketball title and its first since the 1996-97 season. List of schools with the most Pac-10 regular-season titles (won outright or shared) since the 1978-79 season, when the conference went from eight teams to 10.

School Titles



Oregon State...5





Source: NCAA