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Absence of pain makes it better

Times Staff Writer

UCLA point guard Darren Collison leaned against the cement wall at the McKale Center and it was obvious that something was missing: No ice bag on Collison’s left shoulder.

“It doesn’t hurt at all,” Collison said.

Last week the sophomore sat out the Bruins’ upset loss at West Virginia after straining the shoulder against USC.

UCLA’s other wounded starters, center Lorenzo Mata and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, also were feeling healthy. Mbah a Moute was elbowed in the eye Thursday against Arizona State and his eye had swollen shut.

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“It’s fine now,” said Mbah a Moute, who had nine points, six rebounds and four assists in UCLA’s 81-66 win over Arizona.

Mata sat out the second half of the West Virginia game because of a sore left hip and had seemed to irritate his coach, Ben Howland, by not mentioning he had felt the soreness before the game. Mata had 10 points, including an alley-oop slam dunk on a pass from Collison, as well as seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

“I feel good,” Mata said. “This was so much fun.”

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Arizona Coach Lute Olson had said Friday that he offers recruits who like “up-tempo offense” the best place to play.

But after Saturday’s game, a thorough beating, Olson said he hoped his Wildcats learned about toughness from the Bruins.

“That’s the first thing you learn in this game,” Olson said, “that either it hurts when someone scores on you or else you are never going to be a good defensive player.

“It’s got to hurt you. It’s got to be like someone stuck a knife in you when someone scores. We don’t have that. UCLA is a very good team because they compete on every possession.”

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Last week in West Virginia, freshman Russell Westbrook replaced Collison in the starting lineup. Westbrook made one of 11 shots and was despondent afterward. Though he only played 10 minutes over the two games on this road trip, scored no points and missed all three shots he took, Westbrook was ecstatic Saturday.

“Watching Darren make all those passes, it was great,” he said. “Seeing Shipp hit all those shots, that’s a boost to all of us.”

Only center Alfred Aboya (one rebound, one blocked shot and one steal in 23 minutes) and forward Michael Roll (six points, two rebounds and one assist in 15 minutes) played substantial time off the bench.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com


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