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February 28, 2008
UCLA travels to ASU
It's no surprise UCLA's defense is a major reason it sits atop the Pac-10 standings and remains in contention for a No. 1 seed in next month's NCAA tournament.
The fourth-ranked Bruins hope to turn in another strong defensive outing as they look to continue their recent domination over host Arizona State in a conference matchup Thursday night.
UCLA (24-3, 12-2) rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit for a 75-65 home win over Oregon on Saturday for its third straight victory. The Bruins are one game ahead of No. 8 Stanford in the Pac-10 standings with four left to play. The teams meet March 6 in Westwood.
On Saturday, the Bruins turned up their defense to help spark a game-ending 38-17 run to boost their hopes of earning one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.
"Anytime we're down, we got to be patient," said guard Darren Collison, who had 17 points. "We can't get rattled. Our defense won the game. Our offense wasn't doing so well."
After allowing Oregon to shoot 48.3 percent in the first half and open a 48-37 lead early in the second, UCLA clamped down defensively, holding the Ducks to 40 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes and forcing 19 turnovers for the game.
The Bruins also held Oregon to five baskets during the game-breaking stretch.
"Like UCLA does, they just turn up their defense a notch and you just got to match that," Oregon's Maarty Leunen said. "That's why they've been to two (consecutive) Final Fours."
UCLA remains one of the nation's top defensive teams allowing 57.9 points per game. That's better than the 58.7 points it allowed in 2005-06 and the 59.9 it gave up last season. The Bruins allowed fewer than 50 points in each of their previous two victories at Southern California and versus Oregon State.
Freshman Kevin Love had 15 points and 11 rebounds for his 16th double-double, while Russell Westbrook added 16 points, five assists and five steals Saturday for the Bruins, who went 26-for-52 from the field to shoot 50 percent or better for the second straight game.
"We were pretty concerned," said Love, who's averaging a team-leading 17.0 points and 11.0 rebounds. "We had to have a sense of urgency and we needed to keep fighting."
Love had 20 points and 10 boards, while Collison added 14 points and nine assists as UCLA won 84-51 at home over Arizona State on Jan. 31 for its seventh straight victory over the Sun Devils.
The Bruins will try for their fourth consecutive victory at Arizona State (17-9, 7-7), which has lost three of its last four home games after opening 11-0 in Tempe.
"We face an enormous challenge on Thursday night," Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek said.
UCLA held James Harden, the Sun Devils' star freshman, to nine points on just 2-for-6 shooting in the teams' last meeting.
"That was one of the best defensive jobs we've done all year on a team's leading scorer," said UCLA coach Ben Howland of containing Harden, a Los Angeles native who's fourth in the Pac-10 averaging 18.0 points per game. "It was all good."
The 6-foot-5 Harden had 25 points and eight rebounds in a 77-63 win at Washington on Saturday as Arizona State avoided a third straight loss.
Harden went 7-for-11 from the field and bounced back after combining for 21 points on 6-for-21 shooting in the Sun Devils' two previous losses to California and then-No. 17 Washington State.