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Afflalo's shot helps UCLA sinks USC

Jan 13, 2007 - 11:50 PM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Arron Afflalo wasn't about to let Southern California enjoy a repeat of a year ago.

Afflalo nailed a 19-foot jumper with 4.9 seconds left to lift third-ranked UCLA to a 65-64 Pac-10 Conference victory over the Trojans.

The winning basket by Afflalo denied USC a replay of last season, when the Trojans beat the Bruins on February 19, the last time UCLA had lost two games in a row.

UCLA lost at Oregon, 68-66, last Saturday as Josh Shipp's 3-pointer at the buzzer fell short. Even though Shipp sat out this one with an ailing hamstring, Afflalo said the ball belongs in his hands with the game on the line.

"Going back to the Oregon game, I kind of expressed my frustration a little bit on how I at least want the ball in my hands for the last play, despite how I had been playing," Afflalo said. "I trust my teammates fully and if the ball is in their hands, I trust them but if there is a way for me to get it, I do prefer it.

"I am not going to lie, you feel a little pressure ... after you make statements like that and the very next game you're put in that situation so the pressure is there but honestly, once I got the ball in my hands and I saw six seconds ... I don't hear the crowd, I don't hear anything, I'm looking to make that shot."

Bruins coach Ben Howland wasn't about to second-guess with his star guard.

"I told Arron, it was my fault in Oregon, he was to be taking the last shot, and he delivered," Howland said. "You have to give him a lot of credit, he had big time heart and guts and I am really proud of Arron."

USC (13-5, 3-2 Pac-10) had squandered a 10-point lead as UCLA used a 22-6 run to take a 63-57 lead on Lorenzo Mata's layup with 51 seconds to play. That basket capped a run of five straight points by Mata, who tied his season high with 12 points.

Just when the Trojans appeared finished, Gabriel Pruitt nailed a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left and Nick Young followed with a shot from the arc with 23 ticks remaining.

Young was fouled by Darren Collison on the play and buried the free throw for a four-point play and a 64-63 lead for USC.

That left it up to Afflalo, who bounced back from a miserable first half to score 13 of his 15 points after intermission, including three 3-pointers as UCLA (15-1, 4-1) averted a second straight defeat.

"Arron Afflalo is a great player and he came up big in the final seconds," Young said. "They ran a play for him and it was a tough shot, but he made it. It hurt. I kind of felt we had the game. I wanted to stand there and cry."

USC used a 7-1 run to build its biggest lead of the game at 51-41 with 10:57 remaining.

The Bruins came charging back as Collison, Russell Westbrook and Afflalo connected from the arc in a 17-4 run to regain the lead, 58-55, with 3:48 to play. Collison, who scored 12 of his 17 points after the break, and Afflalo combined to score 23 of UCLA's 32 second-half points - splitting six 3-pointers - to put their team in front.

"I really am just so proud of this team's show of character to play in a tough environment playing on the road against a team that I think is going to be in the 2-A Tournament," Howland said. "I have no doubt about that, that's how good I thing USC is. It's a great win for us and we really needed it."

Young scored 14 points and Lodrick Stewart 13 for the Trojans, who lost for just the second time in their last six home meetings with their city rival. All six games have been decided by four points or fewer.

"We were just a couple seconds from getting this win," said Stewart, who had a hand in Afflalo's face on the winning shot. "It's probably one of those games that will be looked at for a lot of years."

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    UCLA (3) 26 39 65
    USC 31 33 64 FINAL

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