Love leads Bruins past WildcatsMar 3, 2008 - 3:18 AM TUCSON, Arizona (Ticker) -- UCLA stayed on track for a third straight regular-season conference crown, but it wasn't easy.
Freshman Kevin Love scored 24 points and fourth-ranked UCLA withstood a late rally by Arizona to post a 68-66 victory on Sunday in a Pac-10 Conference matchup.
In its final road game of the season, UCLA remained in first place in the Pac-10 with the win. The Bruins (26-3, 14-2 Pac-10) hold a one-game lead over Stanford (13-3) and the Cardinal visit Pauley Pavilion in a conference showdown next Thursday.
"This was a big win for us going into next week," UCLA guard Darren Collison said. "It gives us a lot of confidence when we match up with Stanford, which will be a big test for us."
Love added 15 rebounds for his 18th double-double of the season. Darren Collison scored 16 points and Russell Westbrook added 10 for UCLA, which has won seven straight over Arizona.
"I was able to get the ball down low a lot towards the end of the game, and when I was fouled, I converted my free throws," said Love, who was 10-of-11 from the line. "They played with a lot of desperation and we were fortunate to get the win."
Despite coming up short on Sunday, Arizona belongs in the tournament according to UCLA coach Ben Howland.
"I want Arizona in the tournament," he said. "They are a tough team and they would represent the Pac-10 well. Arizona is a good team and we knew we were going to get their best effort."
Trying to bolster its NCAA tournament resume, Arizona (17-12, 7-9) had a chance to win the game or force overtime in the closing seconds but only got off a rushed shot from freshman Jerryd Bayless.
"We had no timeouts left, so there wasn't much we could do or set up," Arizona coach Kevin O'Neill said. "We would have taken a two or a three if we had it."
With the Wildcats trailing, 68-65, with 6.4 seconds to go, Bayless made a free throw and then missed the second. Love and Westbrook both went for the rebound and knocked the ball out of bounds, giving Arizona a chance to at worst tie the game.
The inbounds pass went to Kirk Walters, who was all alone about 10 feet from the basket. Yet, he wanted no part of taking the shot and looked for Bayless, who was hounded by a pair of UCLA defenders and only got off a leaning jumper from near the arc hit the front of the rim and Love rebounded at the buzzer.
"I missed a free throw, but we got it back and tried to run a play for me or Chase," Bayless said. "But they switched on everything. Kirk ended up with the ball and probably had an open shot, but he passed it to me and it was tough to get a shot off when you have four guys on you."
Chase Budinger scored 24 points and Jordan Hill added 18 - 16 in the first half - for Arizona. Bayless added 15 for the Wildcats, who have lost six of eight and were swept at home by the Los Angeles-based schools this week.
Arizona was dealt a 70-58 setback against Southern California on Thursday and now desperately needs to close out the season at Oregon State and Oregon to close out the regular season.
"We are in desperation mode now," Budinger said. "It's a huge week. We need to go out and take care of business against the Oregon schools."
- NCAA BB
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
UCLA (4) 41 27 68
ARIZONA 39 27 66 FINAL
Mar 2 6:11 PM
- NCAA BB
(4) UCLA 41
ARIZONA 39 HALFTIME
Mar 2 4:55 PM
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