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Bruins are relentless in victory

Times Staff Writer

PULLMAN, Wash. -- UCLA forward Alfred Aboya missed a layup, but he almost got the tip. Kevin Love knocked the ball at the basket again and it rolled off the rim. Love got it back and powered up the basketball again.

This time it went in.

The second-half play of conviction was crucial in giving fifth-ranked UCLA a 67-59 win over 17th-ranked Washington State on Thursday night at Friel Court.

Love’s offensive rebound capped an 8-0 run and opened up a nine-point lead for the Bruins (21-2, 9-1 Pacific 10 Conference). In a game when no one led by more than six points in the first half or by more than three for the first 12 minutes of the second half, that one spurt meant everything.

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UCLA kept its one-game lead over Stanford in the Pac-10 race and the Cougars (17-5, 5-5) fell into fifth place after their third straight loss here.

After having no points at halftime and while battling a head cold, Darren Collison finished with 18 points, including nerveless seven-for-seven foul shooting.

Even while he said he was frustrated at not getting the ball enough, freshman center Love had 16 points and nine rebounds. Guard Russell Westbrook had 14 points and, after having five first-half turnovers, he didn’t give one back in the second half. Josh Shipp scored only six points, but his layup on a feed from Love started UCLA’s crucial 8-0 run and his defense on Washington State forward Kyle Weaver was endlessly aggressive.

“What a great win this was,” UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. “I’m so pleased with this performance.”

The arena was filled with the vim of 9,547 fans who found their way to Friel Court by back roads where the street signs were buried under snow banks.

It was officiated by a crew that needed a charter plane from Spokane on Thursday afternoon to make it to Pullman because the main road was closed.

Even though the Bruins had flown by charter for the first time this season, their plane had to land in Lewiston, Idaho, Wednesday night because the Palouse has been buffeted by snow for three days.

UCLA was also short a starter with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute left back in Los Angeles to heal a sprained ankle.

“We knew we would get their best shot,” Howland said of the desperate Cougars, who have lost five of their last eight games after opening the season with 14 wins. “Knowing that their backs were against the wall and that we would be without Luc again, winning on the road without one of our best players, that’s big.”

Love called his offensive rebound basket, which gave UCLA a 54-45 lead with 4:45 left, an “effort” play. “It’s one of those type plays that can send you over the top,” Love said. “When we finally got that bucket I looked at their body posture and thought, ‘We have the game won.’ ”

And indeed Washington State never got closer than five points, 59-54 with 1:48 left on an Aron Baynes dunk. Westbrook answered with one of his own and Collison made six of his seven free throws in the final 50 seconds.

No more than six points separated the teams in the first half, which ended in a 26-26 tie only after a three-pointer by Washington State guard Taylor Rochestie was declared a split second late after a review of the television replay.

And no more than three points separated the teams for the first 12 minutes of the second half. A Weaver layup pulled Washington State within 46-45 with 7:37 left and that’s when the Bruins dug in and made plays. Collison said the defensive stops were the crucial component.

“We got more aggressive defensively in the second half,” Collison said. “Honestly, I don’t know how. We just did.”

Shipp scored a layup off a feed from Love to start the run. It was a pretty pass from the foul line and even though Love grumbled, “I was a little frustrated,” about getting only eight shots, that assist came because Love was so often double-teamed and recognized it.

“He’s a big guy who wears you down,” Weaver said of Love. “Then UCLA got a little run.”

It was just the right amount of oomph at the right time.

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UP NEXT FOR UCLA

Sunday at Washington, 1:30 p.m., Bank of America Arena, FSN Prime Ticket -- Washington has already lost five home games this season, the most since going 8-7 at home in 2003. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who will sit out his second game in a row because of a sprained ankle, had 17 points when UCLA beat Washington, 69-55, at Pauley Pavilion last month.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com


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