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February 18, 2008

UCLA prevails over USC

LOS ANGELES(AP) UCLA returned to tough-nosed defense, its passion stoked by crosstown rival Southern California and first-place in the Pac-10 on the line.

Darren Collison scored 14 points, Kevin Love added 13 and the sixth-ranked Bruins won 56-46 Sunday night to remain atop the league by a half-game.

"I'd be lying if I said we didn't look at the standings," said Love, who grabbed 15 rebounds for his 15th double-double. "Tonight was a big win."

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 10 points and 10 rebounds in his return after missing two games because of a sprained left ankle. He helped Love on the boards and backed up Russell Westbrook's stellar defense on O.J. Mayo, who scored a season-worst four points in 40 minutes.

Coming off a loss at Washington last Sunday, the Bruins (22-3, 10-2) maintained their narrow conference lead over No. 7 Stanford.

"Luc was a huge boost for us even though he's not at full strength," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "Russell did a great job on Mayo, one of the best players in the country."

Taj Gibson had 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 12 rebounds to lead the Trojans (15-9, 6-6), denied their first sweep in the crosstown rivalry since 2003-04.

"That team is just a great team," Gibson said.

Dwight Lewis added 16 points. Mayo took just eight shots (he averages 20.2 points), had nine rebounds and 10 turnovers in what might have been the final college game between him and fellow freshman phenom Love.

"O.J. is a great player and to force him into 10 turnovers is pretty monumental," Love said.

Mayo strained his left groin in practice Wednesday, but he denied it affected his ability to cut and move off screens.

"I don't think my groin had anything to do with my decisions with the ball," he said. "I played pretty good defense on myself with all the turnovers. I just didn't play well. Sometimes it happens."

Mayo failed to reach double figures for the first time this season.

The Bruins avenged last month's 72-63 upset loss in Westwood in an emotionally charged game that featured a combined 32 turnovers (22 by USC) and poor shooting by both teams over the final 6:22.

Love grabbed the last rebound and hung onto the ball for the final seven seconds. A grinning Collison stuck out his tongue at Love and they hugged as time expired.

"Russell's defense was phenomenal," Collison said. "He and Luc were MVPs of this game. Probably a lot of what they did didn't show up on the stat sheet. We played harder. Guys took it personal."

USC was without starting guard Daniel Hackett, whose season is in jeopardy because of a stress fracture in his lower back and a torn oblique muscle.

"It's tough to sit on the sideline and watch," Hackett said. "Guys were tired out there. It's tough when you play six guys. They had fresh bodies coming in every two or three minutes."

Hackett's absence forced coach Tim Floyd to shorten his bench and he used just one sub, Keith Wilkinson, the entire game. As a result, Gibson, Angelo Johnson, Lewis and Mayo played all 40 minutes.

"Fatigue wasn't a factor," Floyd said. "They did a good job with Westbrook on O.J. He had his struggles. I'm sure there were some plays he'd like back. O.J. was probably not 100 percent, but we're not using injuries as an excuse."

The Trojans never led by more than one point in the first half, when they shot 48 percent. The Bruins outscored them 17-8 to end the half ahead 31-23 despite shooting 37 percent from the floor.

Gibson scored USC's first six points of the second half and Lewis added a basket to pull within four. But the Bruins used a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 45-33 with 11 1/2 minutes remaining. Love scored five consecutive points and Collison completed a three-point play in the spurt.

Gibson's two free throws again drew the Trojans within four before both teams went into a shooting funk that kept USC from making a run.

The Trojans tied up Love with multiple defenders, but unlike in last week's loss at Washington, he got help from Mbah a Moute.

Emotions ran high early. Love accidentally hit his friend Mayo in the mouth and Mayo bent over with a pained expression on his face. He recovered and tipped the ball to USC. Later, Love got knocked down at midcourt and Shipp dunked on Mayo, then glared defiantly at him.

The Trojans wore black uniforms and a majority of the 10,258 fans donned black as part of a "Black Out the Bruins" promotion.

Former USC quarterback Matt Leinart, his ex-girlfriend and USC basketball player Brynn Cameron and their young son Cole sat together courtside. USC football coach Pete Carroll and Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy were there. Mayo's mother Alisha, who lives in Huntington, W.Va., attended her first USC home game.



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