TUCSON — Now that he has reviewed the tape -- and listened to the television commentators -- Ben Howland feels certain about what happened.
Asked whether the charging call against guard Darren Collison with 39 seconds remaining in Thursday night's loss to Arizona State should have gone the other way, the UCLA coach responded: "There's no question.
"They were actually showing it on 'SportsCenter,' " he said. "It was pretty clear what had happened."
In replays, Arizona State forward Jeff Pendergraph appears to lean into Collison's path, catching the UCLA guard with his left side.
A blocking call would have given Collison two points to tie the score and a free-throw attempt for the lead. Instead, his basket was disallowed and UCLA never scored again in a 74-67 loss.
On Friday, Howland referred to the call as a key play but saw other costly factors.
The 11th-ranked Bruins were overzealous in their desire to double-team Arizona State guard James Harden, leaving too many other shooters open. The coach also noted that on five occasions in the second half his team took a lead of four points but was never able to widen that gap.
"We had our opportunities to break the game open, give ourselves a little more of a cushion," he said, adding that the Bruins should have taken control "so that we're not depending upon a call to go one way or another."
UCLA used a different substitution pattern against the Sun Devils, going with a smaller lineup for matchup reasons, which meant more playing time for swingman Michael Roll and fewer minutes for bigger reserve James Keefe.
It did not help that starting guard Jrue Holiday had a subpar night. The freshman, who had been averaging almost 10 points, missed all five of his shots.
The defeat threw the Pacific 10 Conference race into a muddle with the Bruins falling into second place, half a game behind Washington, and several other teams within striking distance.
That means UCLA must quickly regroup for today's game against Arizona, the hottest team in the conference.
The Wildcats have won six in a row dating to a late-January game in which a Houston player was ejected for stepping on the face of fallen Arizona forward Chase Budinger.
"I've been pretty happy with us over the last three or four weeks," said Russ Pennell, Arizona's interim coach.
While Pennell acknowledged the incident against Houston fired his players up, he sees other reasons for their recent success. Led by three veterans -- Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise -- the Wildcats have been scoring 11 points higher than their season average.
"Everyone's accepted their roles and some of the younger players have gotten better," Pennell said. "To me, it's just a maturity and a comfort level."
With an early tipoff today (10 a.m. PST), the Bruins will try to extend a streak that has seen them win in Tucson three consecutive seasons. Howland says he believes that whichever team captures the Pac-10 title will have at least four losses.
"The bottom line is we're 8-3," he said, "and we've got to bounce back."
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Time: 10 a.m. PST
On the air: TV: Channel 2; Radio: 570.
Where: McKale Center, Tucson.
Records: UCLA 19-5, 8-3; Arizona 17-8, 7-5.
Update: The 11th-ranked Bruins, who dropped to second place in the Pacific 10 with their loss at Arizona State on Thursday, probably need a victory in Tucson to stay close to the top in their bid for a fourth consecutive conference championship. They'll look to do a better job of getting the ball to Jrue Holiday -- who went scoreless against Arizona State on Thursday night -- when he cuts through the lane. The Wildcats, led by Jordan Hill's 18.3 points a game, have rebounded from a sluggish start to win five straight in the Pac-10. No other team has accomplished that this season.
-- David Wharton