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UCLA REPORT

Bruins get up for the Wildcats

February 02, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

UCLA has defeated Arizona five consecutive times. Those Arizona teams usually have been ranked and considered Pacific 10 Conference championship contenders.

Bruins junior Josh Shipp said he had no Xs-and-O's type explanation for UCLA's recent success against the Wildcats. "Just that they've had great teams," Shipp said, "and it's always easy to get up for them."

Fifth-ranked UCLA (19-2, 7-1) should have no trouble tonight at Pauley Pavilion getting roused to play the Wildcats (15-6, 5-3), who are unranked but are on a four-game winning streak under interim Coach Kevin O'Neill. Coach Lute Olson is taking a leave of absence for at least this season.

"I didn't even notice they weren't ranked," Shipp said. "It's Arizona. We've come to expect Arizona is good. For some reason, we just always come out and play well against them."

There will be more national focus than usual directed toward Westwood. ESPN is bringing its "College Game Day" production to UCLA and televising the matchup.

"I know that gets us a little extra attention," freshman center Kevin Love said Thursday night after the Bruins demolished Arizona State, 84-51. "But, really, it's Arizona. Of course it's a big game."

In the last meeting involving the conference's premier programs, UCLA won, 81-66, in Tucson, shooting 57.1% from the field. After that game, where Shipp scored 24 points and Darren Collison had 17 points and 15 assists, both players spoke about how much fun basketball was.

Collison said the same thing Thursday night. Probably not coincidentally, as Collison has become fully healthy after spraining his left knee and bruising his left hip, the Bruins have become more content. Love hasn't needed to point out how few touches he is getting and Shipp hasn't been asked why he and his teammates aren't feeding the post.

"I know this," Collison said. "This game is most enjoyable when everybody makes an extra pass or two and everybody looks out for their teammate. You might think you have an open shot, but if you take the time to look around you'll likely see there's a better shot. It doesn't matter who you play."

Senior Lorenzo Mata-Real had an X-ray and an MRI on his left wrist and both were negative, UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. UCLA's backup center took a charge in the last 30 seconds of Thursday's game and fell on the wrist.

Howland said he spent a mostly sleepless night worrying about Mata-Real.

"I didn't sleep very well," Howland said. "I should have had him out of the game at that point, No. 1 for Lorenzo's sake and No. 2 for our team's sake. I can't express that enough."

Because Mata-Real had missed the Oregon game a week earlier because of a concussion, Howland said he wanted to get him some extra minutes. Howland also said he had a moment of fear when Collison was fouled hard and fell into the basket stanchion with less than eight minutes to go in the blowout.

"Momentarily my heart dropped," Howland said.

As to how he figures out when to pull his key players in a game won so decisively, Howland's answer was simple. "I don't know," he said.

Howland said he wasn't sure if Mata-Real would play against Arizona. "But for the long term, he should be OK," he said.

--

TONIGHT

vs. Arizona, 6, ESPN

Site -- Pauley Pavilion.

Radio -- 570.

Records -- UCLA 19-2, 7-1 Pacific 10; Arizona 15-6, 5-3.

Update -- During the Wildcats' four-game winning streak, they've made 104 of 194 shots (53.6%). Interim Coach Kevin O'Neill's charge this season, even before Lute Olson began his leave of absence, was to make Arizona's defense better. During this winning streak, the Wildcats have 21 blocked shots and made 22 steals.

--

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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