Bruins tame Wildcats again


There was plenty to like about the way that UCLA opened up the Pacific 10 Conference schedule, winning three straight games on the road.

But the players know their fast start means nothing if they don’t take care of business at home.

“There’s no sense for us to be on the road and win all those games in other people’s places if we can’t protect our court,” guard Darren Collison said.


That’s exactly what the ninth-ranked Bruins did Thursday night, sprinting past Arizona, 83-60, at Pauley Pavilion.

“We did a really good job of attacking their zone, making the extra pass,” Coach Ben Howland said. “I thought there was some really nice passing going on.”

That translated into an efficient offense, the Bruins shooting 59.6% from the field with five players scoring in double figures. A struggling and unranked Arizona team couldn’t keep pace and lost to UCLA for the eighth time in a row.

“They took us out of this ballgame,” Arizona Coach Russ Pennell said. “They got deep in the shot clock and they hit some big shots.”

The Wildcats (11-6, 2-3) are still rebounding from the unexpected retirement of longtime coach Lute Olson in the fall. Pennell -- who had spent the previous season doing color commentary for Arizona State games -- was named interim coach.

“I think it was initially rather confusing and disappointing for them,” Pennell said of Olson’s departure and the resulting turmoil. “But I think we were able to put that behind us in the last two or three weeks.”


The players hit a turning point when Olson visited with them to explain that he had to leave coaching after suffering a stroke.

“The kids knew he hadn’t abandoned them,” Pennell said. “They’ve really banded together as brothers on a team.”

Against UCLA (14-2, 4-0), Arizona showed a variety of defensive looks, shifting between zone, three-quarter-court press and the occasional man-to-man.

Collison responded by attacking the rim, getting to the free-throw line early and often. That’s a good place for the Pac-10’s best free throw shooter to be.

Then his teammates heated up from outside, with Josh Shipp, Nikola Dragovic and Michael Roll hitting from three-point range. Freshman guard Malcolm Lee, returning from several weeks away with a knee injury, scored on an impressive drive to give the Bruins a 10-point lead, and by halftime, the gap had stretched to 42-28.

For the Bruins, who have five of their first seven Pac-10 games on the road, Thursday night represented a chance to play in friendly environs.


In the days beforehand, Shipp said he hoped for a big crowd. UCLA had averaged 8,132 at home, significantly short of Pauley Pavilion’s 12,819 capacity.

“It was kind of slow during the exhibition games and the games that weren’t in the Pac-10,” the senior swingman said. “Hopefully fans will come out and support us.”

Thursday’s crowd was larger at 11,228 and noticeably louder than in previous games. But Howland did not want his team paying too much attention to the stands.

“Young players can get too excited about being at home,” the coach said. “They’re going to try to play to the crowd instead of just being solid. That’s the main thing -- that we just come out and play and not worry about playing to the crowd.”

Of greater concern against Arizona was finding a way to slow down Jordan Hill.

The Bruins tried no less than four players on the 6-10, 235-pound forward, starting with center Alfred Aboya and working their way through forward James Keefe, Dragovic and freshman Drew Gordon.

None of them had a chance as Hill scored on a succession of drives and put-backs, free throws and dunks to finish with a game-high 22 points.


The Bruins fared much better against his teammates.

Dragovic, getting his second consecutive start, led the Bruins with 15 points. Shipp had 13. Collison, Aboya and Roll had 12 each, with Aboya grabbing 12 rebounds for the first double-double of his college career.

“We have a team where anybody could go off and get 20-plus points,” Howland said. “When you have that kind of balance, it really is hard to defend.”