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February 26, 2009

UCLA look to get back on track

Game Ticker

Poor defense may have ruined UCLA's chances of capturing the Pac-10 regular-season title. Perhaps a review of the last matchup with Stanford will give the Bruins some insight on how to improve.

Struggling through their worst stretch of the season, the 22nd-ranked Bruins hope a second rout of the Cardinal in four weeks can help get them on track Thursday night.

UCLA (20-7, 9-5) won eight of its first 10 Pac-10 games and stood alone atop the conference. However, the Bruins went on to lose three of their next four and are now 1 1/2 games behind first-place Washington with four to play.

UCLA is allowing 63.3 points per game but problems on defense have led to its decline. The Bruins have given up an average of 79.0 points over their last four games after holding four straight opponents under 70.

They allowed Washington State, which had dropped five of six, to shoot 58.8 percent in an 82-81 home loss Saturday.

That effort is a far cry from the dominant performance the Bruins had against the Cardinal (15-10, 4-10) on Jan. 31, forcing 19 turnovers and holding them to 38.5 percent from the field in a 97-63 win.

It was UCLA's fifth straight victory over Stanford, allowing 64.4 points a game during a run that includes one overtime contest. The Bruins haven't lost to the Cardinal since a 75-68 road loss on Jan. 28, 2007, the last time UCLA gave up 70 points in the series.

Stanford is in danger of losing four straight overall for the first time since a six-game skid in the 1992-93 season.

The Cardinal shot just 39.6 percent Saturday night in a 68-60 defeat to lowly Oregon, which had lost 14 straight Pac-10 games and is allowing 76.1 points per contest.

Stanford matched its lowest point total of the season two nights earlier in a 66-54 loss to Oregon State.

UCLA's offense, meanwhile, has remained strong, averaging 83.0 points and shooting 45.7 percent (16-for-35) from 3-point range in its last two games. The Bruins are averaging 76.6 points on the season.

UCLA's second-highest point total of the season was against Stanford. Darren Collison, Alfred Aboya and Jrue Holiday each had 15 points as the Bruins shot 63.3 percent.

Collison had 20 points and eight assists Saturday. The senior guard is averaging 21.0 points and shooting 47.1 percent (8-for-17) from 3-point range in his last three games.

Junior swingman Landry Fields has been hot for Stanford, averaging 16.8 points in his last five contests. He had a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds against Oregon.

Still, the Cardinal lost for the seventh time in their last nine games.

"I think our kids have been fighting. We've been in pretty much all of the games and that's tough," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said.

After three straight road games, the Cardinal could use a boost at Maples Pavilion, where they are 12-3. The Bruins, meanwhile, have lost three straight on the road since a 61-59 win over Washington State on Jan. 22.

UCLA leads the series with Stanford 131-89.



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