No. 5 Bruins stave off gritty Oregon

LOS ANGELES - UCLA put together two strong halves and avoided the kind of collapse that cost the fifth-ranked Bruins in their previous game.

Arron Afflalo scored 17 points and the Bruins shot 57 percent in beating ninth-ranked Oregon 69-57 Thursday night to gain sole possession of first place in the Pac-10.

The Bruins (19-2, 8-2) have won 16 consecutive games at Pauley Pavilion, dating to last season. UCLA and the Ducks (19-3, 7-3) came in tied atop the conference standings.

"They had a lot of fight in them," Ducks coach Ernie Kent said. "It was a physical game. The biggest difference in the game is they shot the ball a little bit better than we did. I counted maybe eight layups that we missed and that's tough to do when you're getting them point-blank at the rim and they're not going in for you."

The victory avenged UCLA's 68-66 loss at Oregon - its first of the season - on Jan. 6 that knocked the Bruins out of the nation's No. 1 ranking. Aaron Brooks hit the game-winning jumper with 13 seconds left in that one.

"They gave us our first loss, so we had that feeling in our gut," said Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Bryce Taylor scored 17 points to lead Oregon, off to its best record in 80 years. The Ducks' five starters came in averaging double figures, but Brooks was the only other player to do so with 14.

"We came out flat," Taylor said. "It's such a big game, so it's hard to understand."

Darren Collison had 12 points and Josh Shipp 11 for the Bruins, who were coming off a 75-68 loss at Stanford in which they blew a 17-point lead.

"We definitely learned from our mistakes," Collison said. "The first time (against Oregon) we came out really sluggish. Today, we played great team defense."

In all three of their losses, the Ducks have allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor.

UCLA opened both halves strong. The Bruins started the second half with a 12-2 run that produced their largest lead of 19 points. Afflalo had five points and Lorenzo Mata scored three in a row.

The Bruins' defense repeatedly shut down Oregon, with the Ducks coming up empty on field-goal attempts to start the second half. Maarty Leunen's 3-pointer at 14:18 was their first.

"Their bigs played great and got after us," said Brooks, who was dogged by Afflalo much of the game. "We didn't match the energy at all. I don't know what it was."

UCLA shot at a 61 percent clip during one stretch while keeping the Ducks down by 13.

With 400BD> minutes to go, Oregon ran off seven points in a row to close to 60-51. Taylor crashed the offensive boards for a basket, Brooks scored and Malik Hairston completed a three-point play.

But that proved to be Oregon's last gasp as the Bruins ended the game on a 9-6 run. UCLA's 57 percent 3-point shooting matched its field-goal percentage.

"It's tough to always be fighting back," Leunen said. "They played great defense on us, definitely stepped up and put it at another notch."

USC 73, Oregon State 56

At Los Angeles, getting up for a team you've already beaten by 45 points is a difficult task, especially with a highly ranked opponent paying a visit two days later.

But Southern California did what was necessary, breaking open a close game early in the second half to beat Oregon State and make Saturday's matchup with Oregon much more meaningful.

"If we would have lost, it would have been embarrassing," said USC's Nick Young, who had 19 points and six rebounds. "The older guys, we started picking up the intensity. The younger guys came with us."

By beating the Beavers for the fifth straight time, USC moved into a second-place tie with No. 9 Oregon and No. 18 Washington State in the Pac-10.

After the Oregon-USC game, the Trojans play five of their last seven regular-season games on the road. They handed the Ducks their first loss of the season last month, winning an 84-82 decision in Eugene.

"Oregon is as good as anyone in the country," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "The Oregon game is not an opportunity as much as it is a necessity. We've got to play well at home."

The Trojans (17-6, 7-3 Pac-10) beat Oregon State 91-46 in Corvallis last month - the most lopsided game in the 82-year history of a series USC leads 62-55.