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Big men still face issues at the line

Times Staff Writer

UCLA Coach Ben Howland was particularly forceful in mentioning the Bruins had made 18 of 20 free-throw attempts in the second half of their 70-65 win over USC on Wednesday night. Don’t give much credit to centers Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya, though.

Mata missed his first foul shot Wednesday and made his second only after the ball took a rambunctious ride off the backboard and rim. A third was almost clean. Aboya missed three of his four attempts.

Although sophomore forward Josh Shipp scored only one basket, he made all seven of his free-throw attempts and junior Arron Afflalo was nerveless when Howland chose him to shoot two technical free throws that gave UCLA the lead for good.

Howland said he’d normally choose the team’s best statistical shooter for technical free throws and that’s point guard Darren Collison. “But I just felt like Arron would make them,” Howland said.

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The team’s early season problems with free throws -- at one point the Bruins were last in the Pacific 10 Conference -- were an aberration, Shipp said. “It’s a matter of practice and concentration,” Shipp said.

Well, maybe not for Mata. “I’m trying,” he said. “I know I can shoot better.”

And as UCLA tried to protect its small lead in the final minutes, Aboya was trying to run away from USC defenders who wanted to send the sophomore to the line. So good was Aboya at running that when he did get fouled, it was intentional. Even though he missed, the Bruins got the ball back.

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Though freshman guard Russell Westbrook played seven important minutes in the first half and scored two points with three assists in that short time, he didn’t get off the bench in the second half.

Westbrook said he didn’t mind.

“All that matters is we won,” he said.

Westbrook was benched shortly after he got stripped while driving to the basket.

diane.pucin@latimes.com


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