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February 20, 2009
LOS ANGELES(AP) Another 20-win season might be considered ho-hum to UCLA fans, whose expectations focus on winning a national championship every year. But reaching that milestone was anything but routine this time.
Josh Shipp led five players in double figures with 20 points and the No. 20 Bruins held off 22nd-ranked Washington 85-76 Thursday night to move into a second-place tie in the Pac-10, a half-game behind the first-place Huskies.
The Bruins (20-6, 9-4 Pac-10) were coming off back-to-back road losses last week in Arizona, and wanted to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2005, when they were beaten by Arizona, Stanford and California in coach Ben Howland's second season.
They did, and in the process notched the 45th 20-win season in school history.
"It's big for our confidence. We needed this big win," Shipp said. "It's definitely a momentum booster and a confidence booster. We didn't have anything to lose. We just had to come out with a great effort."
Darren Collison added 17 points, Nikola Dragovic 15, Alfred Aboya had 13 points and 11 rebounds - his third career double-double - and Jrue Holiday 10 points for the Bruins, who kept alive their bid for a fourth consecutive league title.
"It definitely feels good, especially beating a good team," Collison said. "Way to bounce back. We wanted to make sure we got a message across. It's not over yet."
Washington's Justin Dentmon scored 22 points and Jon Brockman had 16 points and 14 rebounds for his 55th career double-double, most among college basketball's active players. Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter added 12 points each.
Aboya helped hold Brockman to just three field goals in the second half despite being affected by flu-like symptoms. A dehydrated Aboya required an IV after the game, something that was attempted at halftime but failed when a vein in his arm couldn't be located.
"It was real bad at halftime, but he came out and gutted it out for the team," Howland said. "This is a big game for us to win. They were the first-place team in the Pac-10, but I never doubted our team. We showed great character in bouncing back after a tough road trip."
Collison never doubted Aboya would produce with so much at stake.
"Even if he has one leg, he's going to go out there and play," he said. "He makes injuries and people who get sick look stupid."
The Huskies (19-7, 10-4) trailed virtually the entire game at Pauley Pavilion, where they fell to 1-22 since the 1986-87 season. Their three-game winning streak ended, too.
"They played really unselfish," Pondexter said. "They came out and played with 100 percent of their heart. They did everything in their power to make sure we didn't come here and sneak out a win."
The Huskies, who got to the line 43 times in their 86-75 victory over UCLA on Jan. 24, hit four of 10 free throws this time, while UCLA was 15-of-18.
Dragovic was a much bigger factor for the Bruins in the rematch after scoring eight points in Seattle. Nine of his 15 points came on 3-pointers and he grabbed a career-high eight rebounds.
"Dragovic got them going. He opened it up for their offense," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He definitely stepped up and hit some shots."
Washington got within two points with 3:45 remaining on a basket by Pondexter. But the Bruins outscored the Huskies 12-7, including six in a row, to end the game.
"We came back because we scrapped. We weren't able to get stops," Romar said. "We battled back and just weren't able to get stops."