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Collison leads UCLA rally over Arizona State

Feb 16, 2007 - 8:22 AM TEMPE, Arizona (Ticker) -- Darren Collison proved to be the deciding factor in UCLA's latest comeback attempt.

Collison scored 11 of his 18 points in a decisive second-half rally as the seventh-ranked Bruins took advantage of poor shooting by Arizona State to post a 67-61 Pac-10 Conference victory.

Arron Afflalo scored 24 points for UCLA (22-3, 11-2 Pac-10), which remained atop the conference standings by recording its fourth straight league win.

Although their latest matchup was against the Pac-10's only winless team, the Bruins found themselves trailing, 49-39, after Sun Devils forward Antwi Atuahene hit a jumper with 10:58 remaining.

"We were hesitant and tentative at times," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We can't be like that. We can't be afraid to make mistakes against the zone. We were on our heels a bit. There was a point in the second half where we couldn't get any stops against them."

It was the second straight contest where UCLA faced a double-digit deficit in the second half, falling behind West Virginia by 19 points with 14:17 remaining before absorbing a 70-65 loss Saturday.

One reason that comeback fell short was the absence of Collison, who sat out against the Mountaineers because of a left shoulder injury.

With the sophomore point guard back in the fold, Afflalo was not worried about the deficit, believing that the youthful Sun Devils would give the Bruins a chance to come back.

"Despite their record they are a pretty good team, just young and inexperienced," Afflalo said. "I still expected us to come out and win. We weren't playing particular great defense early and we weren't attacking the zone. That is supposed to be our M.O.

"We have to get rid of those lapses. It is getting to be an important part of the season and we have to focus."

Despite his injury, Collison proved to be in better health on Thursday, scoring 11 points during an 18-2 run that forged a 57-51 advantage with 4:14 remaining. Collison hit three 3-pointers during the burst, including one that snapped a 51-51 tie by beating the shot clock with 4:51 left.

"We started to get some open looks and all my looks were open," he said.

"If Darren doesn't play today it is a long day for us," Howland said. "He made (big) threes."

Despite going more than 10 minutes without a field goal in the second half, Arizona State (6-19, 0-14) closed within 63-61 with 16 seconds to play when Serge Angounou's 3-point attempt hit off the front of the rim and backboard before going in.

However, Afflalo and Josh Shipp both converted a pair of free throws as UCLA finished the game 10-of-10 from the stripe in the closing minute.

Collison finished 7-of-15 from the field, including 3-of-7 from the arc, as he play completely uncumbered with the injury he suffered in the win over Southern California on January 7.

"When I start playing the adrenaline starts running and I pretty much didn't feel anything," he said. "Now is not the time to feel sorry about anything."

Afflalo added four 3-pointers and center Lorenzo Mata added 10 points for UCLA, which beat Arizona State for the sixth straight time in the series.

While the Bruins were all of a sudden clicking on all cylinders down the stretch, the Sun Devils went ice cold, missing six straight shots starting with 8:51 left until Christian Polk's 3-pointer cut their deficit to 59-56 with 48 seconds remaining.

"Shots that we had made to put us in the position (to win) all of a sudden weren't going our way," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said.

"When you have a 10-point lead in the second half and you don't win you are disappointed but I was pleased with our effort," he added. "When you have the record we did coming in and you are facing a ranked team like UCLA it is easy to bow out and our guys didn't do that."

Jeff Pendergraph scored 14 points and Allen 11 for the Sun Devils, who absorbed their 15th straight loss.