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STANDARD-BEARER AFFLALO, ABOYA HELP BRUINS WIN STATEMENT GAME.

Byline: BRIAN DOHN Staff Writer

Two weeks ago, after an exhilarating overtime win at then-No. 24 Washington, Arizona's Marcus Williams declared his Wildcats the Pacific-10 Conference's standard-bearer, an obvious slight toward defending conference champion UCLA.

He couldn't have been more wrong.

Junior guard Arron Afflalo scored 22 points and also shut down Williams, the conference's leading scorer, as the third-ranked Bruins survived a shaky final minute to defeat No. 11 Arizona 73-69 in front of a season-high 12,249 fans Saturday at Pauley Pavilion, and in the process pushed the Wildcats way back in the conference race.

The Bruins (17-1, 6-1 Pac-10) are tied with Oregon atop the conference standings, while the Wildcats (13-5, 4-4) languish in the middle of the pack. UCLA's fourth straight win against Arizona also signals a shift in the recent balance of power, but the Bruins aren't about to brag.

``I don't consider us the standard,'' Afflalo said. ``We go out, we play hard, we compete to win. We just want to win that night. We're not trying to measure ourselves up against anybody else. We're trying to be the best UCLA Bruin team we can be.''

More distressing for Arizona, the conference's standard-bearer a few years ago, is the matter of losing a third straight conference game for the first time since 1984.

The Wildcats shot 39.3 percent from the field, including 20percent (3 of 15) from 3-point range, and often looked lackadaisical offensively and slow to react in their 1-3-1 zone.

``We don't take anything personal because we understand everyone is trying to gun for us,'' UCLA point guard Darren Collison said. ``It's never a personal thing. If we play our game, we'll be all right.''

Williams, who was averaging a league-best 18.5 points going into Saturday's game, was held to 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Afflalo, in addition to his defensive job, was 9 of 14 from the field.

``Arron played great,'' UCLA coach Ben Howland said. ``He took good shots, was very unselfish out there, knocked down his open 3s. He only had two turnovers, and it disappoints him more than anybody when he does turn it over. But he had a great game.''

Ivan Radenovic led the Wildcats with 20 points, but UCLA's bench had an 18-9 scoring advantage, fueled by Michael Roll's 13 points, as the Bruins continued to show their depth.

A week after defeating USC without second-leading scorer Josh Shipp, the Bruins won despite the absence of leading rebounder Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who was out after hyperextending his right knee.

Alfred Aboya grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds, then capped his first start of the season with a pair of crucial free throws with 17 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

``He did a good job on the boards, defending, his effort. Whatever you want to say,'' Collison said. ``I think Alfred, he did a much better job of filling in that piece. He helped (center) Lorenzo (Mata) on the boards and he was just out there hustling.''

After being outrebounded in the early going, the Bruins hit the boards hard and lost the battle only 35-33, while also shifting momentum late in the first half.

``We had a number of fastbreak opportunities, but we turned over the ball too much,'' Arizona coach Lute Olson said. ``We did a good job on the boards, but we shot miserably.''

With the Wildcats losing to No. 9 Oregon and USC their past two games, much of buzz had died down long before tipoff Saturday, but Arizona still had its reputation and a talented starting lineup that raced to a 25-17 lead with close-range shots.

But UCLA's depth and unselfish movement of the basketball prevailed.

Following a timeout, Shipp hit a basket to ignite a 13-0 run, which included points from Roll, Collison, Russell Westbrook and Aboya as the Bruins went ahead 30-25 with 2:04 left in the first half.

``After that timeout, I believe, we went small,'' Howland said. ``Against their zone -- and it was more for offense than defense -- we played fourguards. And Darren did a good job penetrating. We went to four guards a lot to attack their zone.''

UCLA did not trail again, and stretched its lead to 68-56 with 2:31 remaining but had to survive a pair of missed one-and- one free-throw attempts from Collison and Afflalo before Roll made two and Aboya hit all four of his attempts.

``I think we were just complacent,'' said Collison, who finished with 14 points.

brian.dohn@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3607

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3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) UCLA guard Darren Collison elevates for a shot over Arizona's Mustafa Shakur during Saturday's Bruins' win.

(2) UCLA's Arron Afflalo, left, passes around a pair of Arizona defenders during Saturday's game.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer

(3) Arizona's Mustafa Shakur, left, tries to get past UCLA center Lorenzo Mata.

Photog here/Associated Press
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 21, 2007
Words:817
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