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UCLA tops Washington St., survives more late scoring issues

Jan 23, 2009 - 6:59 AM PULLMAN, Washington (Ticker) -- If there were a place besides home for UCLA to recover from another late-game drought, it is Friel Court.

Darren Collison scored six of his eight points in the final five minutes as No. 11 UCLA survived the loss of another comfortable lead to squeak out a 61-59 victory over Washington State on Thursday.

Nikola Dragovic recorded a career-high 20 points for the Bruins (15-3, 5-1 Pac-10), who beat the Cougars on the road for the 16th straight time.

It was also UCLA's ninth straight win in the series.

It appeared early in the second half that UCLA would continue its mastery in Pullman in strong fashion, taking a 38-23 advantage on a jumper by Alfred Aboya just under two minutes into the final 20 minutes.

However, it later turned south for the Bruins, who coughed up an 11-point lead against then-No. 15 Arizona State on Saturday by failing to record a point over the final 8:06 of regulation. They eventually lost to the Sun Devils in overtime.

"We didn't want that feeling of the Arizona State loss to happen again, so we had to show a little bit more toughness," Collison told the Pasadena Star-News. "I thought we played a good team. We just started losing a little bit of focus down the stretch in the last five minutes, and that can't happen.

"But I thought we played with more toughness than we did in the Arizona State game."

Against Washington State (11-7, 3-3), UCLA once again got tight, managing just two points over a span of more than six minutes as the Cougars went on a 14-2 run to tie the score at 53-53 with 5:12 remaining on a 3-pointer from the left wing by Caleb Forrest.

Forrest scored the final six points of the run, ending up with a career-high 19 points.

"Never count them out," Washington State coach Tony Bennett said of his club. "I'm glad we didn't lay down and die; they made some plays. We struggled with that early in the Pac-10 and we made a few against a pretty solid defensive team."

Collison ended the drought with 4:42 left, getting fouled on a drive into the lane before converting two free throws to make it 55-53.

Aron Baynes came back with two foul shots for Washington State, but Collison added a layup and a jumper over the next 1:30 minutes for a 59-55 edge.

"He's a big-time player," Cougars guard Taylor Rochestie said of Collison. "Their coach put it in his hands and he made plays. He's a player that can make it happen at the end of the game."

Baynes, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, had a layup with 2:27 to play to draw the Cougars back within two points.

Washington State was also down 61-59 with under 50 seconds to play when it forced Dragovic into a tough 3-pointer that failed to draw the rim.

Looking for their fourth straight win, the Cougars got the ball to Forrest near the right post in the closing seconds, but the senior center was trapped without a dribble before Washington State called a timeout with 4.6 seconds left.

After Collison knocked the first inbounds pass back out of bounds, the Cougars got the ball to Marcus Capers near the top of the key. The freshman guard moved to his left before firing a 3-pointer that only found the backboard.

"I was proud of our guys for fighting back and I told them that but you can't spot a team like that that kind of lead," Bennett said. "They have to decide who they want to be. They need to be tough minded and sound in the good stretch or absent minded in the bad ones."

Rochestie had nine points and six assists for Washington State, which finished with a 30-22 advantage on the boards.