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Abrams, Texas top UCLA once again

Dec 5, 2008 - 6:11 AM AUSTIN, Texas (Ticker) -- This time around, A.J. Abrams was on his game against UCLA.

Abrams tied a career-high with 31 points as eighth-ranked Texas battled past No. 9 UCLA, 68-64, in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series on Thursday.

Damion James added 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Longhorns (6-1), who beat the Bruins in this event for the second straight year.

In last year's thrilling 63-61 win at Pauley Pavilion, Abrams struggled, going 3-of-8 from the field en route to seven points.

The 5-11 senior had few issues in this one, going 9-of-18 from the field with five 3-pointers.

Behind Abrams, Texas held a 46-36 lead in the opening minutes of the second half. But UCLA rallied, pulling ahead 58-55 when Alfred Aboya grabbed an offensive rebound and laid the ball in as he was fouled.

The Bruins (4-2) had a chance to increase their lead after Darren Collison tracked down the rebound on Aboya's missed free throw, but the Longhorns' Justin Mason stripped freshman Jrue Holliday of the ball and James hit a 3-pointer on the other end to tie the game.

The contest was still tied at 62-62 with under three minutes to play when Abrams hit the last of his 3-pointers to give Texas the lead for good.

"In the second half, they had control for most of the time, but we managed to seize it back for the last few minutes," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "They have some guys that can play and they showed a lot of character and heart and you expect that from Ben (Howland's) team. Tonight was a good win for us."

The Longhorns were clinging to a 67-64 edge when the Bruins had a handful of chances to slice their deficit in the closing 1 1/2 minutes. Collison missed two 3-pointers, Aboya had a layup roll out and Josh Shipp missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

"It's a tough loss we experienced today against a good team," Howland said. "Like I said they have chance to be at Detroit (Final Four) at the end of the season, so I was glad that in the last three minutes we even stood a chance."

"We persevered," Barnes said. "I do think that we came up with some big defensive plays when we had to."

Abrams then split two free throws with 10 seconds left to wrap up the scoring.

That late miss from the stripe was the only one on nine attempts for Abrams, who scored at least 30 points for the third time in his career.

Prior to Thursday, UCLA had not had an opposing player score more than 22 points against it.

"His ability to shoot the ball so quickly," Collison said when asked about what makes Abrams so tough to guard. "He does not leave a lot of space. He hits the shot fast. You can't lose sight of him; you have to know where he is."

A team that has had some scoring issues so far, the Bruins did come out with the first five points and had a 22-20 lead following a 3-pointer by Collison with 7:56 left before halftime.

The Longhorns controlled the play thereafter, going on a 12-2 run over the next 4 1/2 minutes. Abrams and Connor Atchley both had a 3-pointer and Mason capped the burst with consecutive baskets.

Abrams added another 3-pointer and was fouled on another long attempt, converting all three free throws to give Texas a 38-29 lead at the break.

"Abrams was just terrific," Howland said. "He hit a lot of shots for Texas, and James played well tonight."

Collison had 22 points and Shipp added 15 for UCLA, which reached the free-throw line only 10 times, converting five.

Aboya chipped in seven points and 11 rebounds.