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February 8, 2009
LOS ANGELES(AP) Early in the morning or late at night, the UCLA Bruins are mowing down opponents at any hour.
Alfred Aboya scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds in No. 15 UCLA's 89-63 rout of Notre Dame on Saturday, which sent the Fighting Irish to their seventh consecutive loss for the first time since 1992-93.
It was the fourth straight blowout victory for the Bruins (19-4), who've won those games by an average of 22.7 points since an 86-75 loss at Washington on Jan. 24. Since then, they've outscored opponents by a combined 58 points in the first half alone.
"It's obvious we've been performing at a new level and just improving as a team," said UCLA coach Ben Howland, who won his 145th game in his sixth season, tying him for fourth on the school's career victory list.
"It was a good statement for our team and our conference to play them like this."
Darren Collison added 17 points and Nikola Dragovic and freshman Jerime Anderson had 10 points each for UCLA, which has forced 74 turnovers during its four-game winning streak, including 11 on Saturday.
"It's our intensity," Collison said. "We raised the level a notch on the defensive end and guys started playing their role harder. When our intensity is at a high level, we're hard to beat."
Tory Jackson scored 17 and Kyle McAlarney 16 for the Irish (12-10), who dropped to 2-7 against ranked opponents this season. Their worst losing streak under coach Mike Brey matches the seven in a row Notre Dame lost to end the 1992-93 season.
"We're searching for a win," Brey said. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves. This is the biggest challenge in the history of the program, but I think our kids will respond."
Playing for the first time since 2005, the teams tipped off at 10 a.m. because of the national telecast.
The Bruins sure didn't look groggy.
UCLA's trapping defense shut down an Irish team that came in averaging 79.4 points. The Irish had just 30 at the break.
Aboya and UCLA's double-teams forced Irish star Luke Harangody into his worst performance of the season. He was held to five points and one rebound - none in the second half - the first time in 15 games the big man didn't lead the Irish offensively.
"I had a hard time getting it out of the post and made some mistakes early," said Harangody, who played just seven minutes in the second half. "We didn't fight at all. They threw a couple punches and we just seemed to back down."
Aboya saw the frustration in Harangody's body language.
"Every time he missed a shot he was upset with himself," Aboya said. "The double team was really efficient. He had a good taste of it. He had an off-day and I'm glad it was against me."
The Bruins took command from the opening tip, running out to leads of 14-2 and 20-7 while fans were still filling empty seats. Josh Shipp's one-handed fast-break dunk off a lob from Collison and Dragovic's stuff that sent Harangody sprawling to the floor highlighted the spree.
"They got off to such a great start," Brey said. "We had some great looks early and you got to knock down a few more of those. We had some key turnovers that turned into easy baskets."
The Irish closed within 10 with 7:45 remaining, but UCLA took off again with an 18-12 spurt to end the half leading 46-20, keyed by seven points from Aboya and Dragovic's 3-pointer.
Aboya enjoyed the star treatment after the game, with kids crowding around him for autographs, including one who took off his shoe to be signed, and adults telling the three-time Final Four veteran how well he played.
"Alfred did a good job guarding the post," Collison said. "He's hitting his outside shot, it just took him a while to shoot that shot. He has an inside game, outside game, he plays hard, he plays defense. He's the key to our success."
It took Notre Dame most of the second half to reach 40 points, while the Bruins scored 21 out of the gate, capped by Collison's consecutive 3-pointers.
Then he and Shipp traded fast-break layups that enlivened the crowd and extended UCLA's lead to 71-40.
A few minutes later, Aboya and Shipp sat down for good, which allowed the Irish to score more easily against some of UCLA's freshmen.