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UCLA Starts Fast; Downs Cats, 84-73
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 02/05/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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LOS ANGELES (AP) - If UCLA needed more proof its program is on the upswing, the 14th-ranked Bruins got it with their largest margin of victory over Arizona since 1983.

Arron Afflalo scored a career-high 27 points and UCLA survived a second-half drought for an 84-73 victory Saturday, the Bruins' first win at home over the Wildcats in four years.

``We're heading in a positive direction, but the sweep over Arizona doesn't mean we're there,'' Afflalo said.

The Bruins (19-4, 9-2) increased their lead in the Pac-10 to two games over California and Stanford, which played later Saturday. They swept Arizona for the first time since 1996-97 and the 11-point win was UCLA's largest over the Wildcats since a 111-58 victory 23 years ago.

The victory was salve for a UCLA program that had been battered by huge losses to the Wildcats in recent years, including 35- and 36-point defeats in 2002-03, Steve Lavin's final season as coach.

The Bruins lost by 25 and 24 points in coach Ben Howland's first season two years ago. Last month, UCLA won in Tucson 85-79, its first victory there in nine years.

``I'm excited for our team,'' Howland said. ``It was a great win. Our defense was so active.''

Besides Afflalo, whose previous best was 23 against Stanford on Dec. 29, three of UCLA's starters were in double figures. Jordan Farmar had 13 points, Ryan Hollins 12 and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 11.

Farmar sprained his left ankle, but Howland said he didn't think it was serious.

Arizona (13-9, 6-5) dropped its third straight conference game for the first time since February 1984, coach Lute Olson's first season in Tucson. The Wildcats fell to 1-5 against ranked opponents this season.

``We'll be judged on how we finish rather than how we're doing right now,'' Olson said. ``I feel confident we're going to finish well.''

Hassan Adams led Arizona with 19 points, while Kirk Walters added 14 and Ivan Radenovic 13.

``That's a big loss,'' said Adams, who had three turnovers in the game's opening minutes. ``This is one of those heartbreakers. This is one we really wanted, we really needed.''

As dominant as the Bruins were in leading by 20 in the first half, they saw Arizona hammer away in the second half and reduce a 24-point deficit to seven.

The Wildcats shot 58 percent for the game, highest of any UCLA opponent this season, and used an effective zone defense to briefly shut down the Bruins.

UCLA scored the first eight points of the second half before Arizona ran off 12 in a row as part of a 24-7 run. Adams was a big part of the Wildcats' resurgence, scoring 10 in the spurt that got them to 65-58 with 7:43 remaining.

That's when Afflalo answered with a 3-pointer. Mbah a Moute scored on a putback of Michael Roll's miss, then hit a 3-pointer to keep UCLA ahead 73-60.

Afflalo found Cedric Bozeman on the left wing, and the fifth-year senior hit a 3-pointer for a 76-62 lead with 3:21 remaining.

Capitalizing on turnovers, the Wildcats scored six straight to trail 76-68 with 2 minutes left. But Farmar converted a three-point play in the final minute.

``We played a good 25 minutes,'' Olson said. ``As soon as we learn to play 40 minutes, we're going to be pretty good.''

The Bruins broke the game open with a 26-9 first-half run that gave them a 35-16 lead. Afflalo had eight points in the spurt, which included two technicals against Arizona. Olson got the first one when he ranted at the referees during a timeout about a holding call on Adams.

``I guess my eyes are deceiving me, but I saw their post guy move all the way out of bounds to get Hassan,'' Olson said. ``Obviously, a moving pick. You can be half-blind and still see that.''

UCLA pushed its lead to 20 points on a 3-pointer by Farmar, just after Adams scored his first field goal of the game with 5:02 left in the first half. He had five more points as the Wildcats closed within 13 before Afflalo hit a 3-pointer at the end of the half to make it 50-34.

``That was not an easy look, that was really a pressured 3-point shot, but he's that kind of player,'' Olson said.

Arizona shot 58 percent in the half, mostly on layups, but committed 13 turnovers that UCLA turned into 20 points.

``One of the things about our team through the years is we've tended to be very consistent,'' Olson said. ``This year, it's the inconsistency that's getting us.''

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