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FARMAR'S NUMBERS ADD UP UCLA'S STRUGGLING POINT GUARD COMES THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH.

Byline: Jill Painter Staff Writer

This was a different Jordan Farmar.

The UCLA guard did plenty of customary things, such as draining big shots to help his team win a Pac-10 Tournament title and tweaking his right ankle again but playing through it.

Farmar scored a game-high 19 points in a 71-52 rout over California on Saturday at Staples Center. He made the all-tournament team and should have college basketball analysts gushing about his skills as they pore over today's NCAA Tournament selections.

But his game wasn't the same in the Pac-10 Tournament. Farmar was plagued by foul trouble in the semifinals against Arizona. His minutes were way down in an effort to keep him fresh for three games in as many days, and he played just 22, 23, and 26 minutes, respectively. The only time he played fewer minutes this year was in games when he sustained an ankle.

Farmar, a Taft High of Woodland Hills product, finished the tournament with more turnovers (15) than assists (11). There didn't seem to be any cause for concern in UCLA's locker room.

``That's just the way it worked out,'' Farmar said. ``I didn't get a lot of minutes. I had career-lows in minutes. I hadn't played under 30 all year. Games weren't really close. To have that and the kind of games they were, there wasn't a lot of playmaking that needed to be made. There were a lot of transition buckets. If I made the pass that led to the pass that led to the basket, that's just as good as an assist. It's not about numbers.''

Farmar averages 5.3 assists per game and 3.7 turnovers, so the Pac-10 Tournament ratio was an aberration. He had seven turnovers and six assists against Arizona and no assists with four turnovers against Cal.

UCLA (27-6) has so much depth that it doesn't seem to matter if any given player is struggling. Afflalo had a career-high seven assists against the Bears and Cedric Bozeman, UCLA's former point guard, had five assists.

``(Farmar's) just a good basketball player,'' Afflalo said. ``It's part of the game. That's part of his responsibilities. Sometimes, he's going to turn it over and sometimes he'd going to get the assist.''

UCLA has one of the best guard tandems in the country with Farmar and Afflalo. Backup point guard Darren Collison isn't too shabby, either, and he's provided consistent minutes this season. He had three assists and no turnovers in 17 minutes Saturday. A day earlier, he 15 points, one assist and no turnovers against Arizona.

``While he's on the bench and I'm making mistakes or I'm doing positive things, he's learning,'' Farmar said.

Unknown to most, Farmar tweaked his right ankle in the first half and took Advil with about eight minutes left. He's injured his ankles too many times to count.

``It went away as the game wore on,'' Farmar said. ``At first it was bothering me but as I started moving, I realized it wasn't hurting too bad. I took an Advil and it wore off and went away. That was a positive sign for me.''

UCLA coach Ben Howland preferred to talk about Farmar's hot shooting touch than his assist-to-turnover ratio. Farmar made 7 of 12 shots and 5 for 8 from 3-point range. Similar outings could help UCLA go deep in the NCAA Tournament. But in the NCAAs, coaches put a premium on taking care of the ball.

``I'm going to turn the ball over a few times because the ball is in my hands almost all the time, and I'm always trying to make something happen for me and my teammates,'' Farmar said.

Jill Painter, (818) 713-3615

jill.painter(at)dailynews.com

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UCLA point guard Jordan Farmar celebrates after the Bruins won the Pac-10 Conference Tournament on Saturday.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 12, 2006
Words:644
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