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No. 1 UCLA opens Pac-10 Conference play vs. Washington State

Dec 28, 2006 - 4:50 PM Washington (11-1) at No. 1 UCLA (11-0) 10:30 pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- An important step to UCLA's run to last spring's NCAA Championship game was its Pac-10 Conference titles.

The top-ranked Bruins begin defense of their regular season and conference tournament crowns Thursday when they face Washington State in the Pac-10 opener for both teams.

Coming off its first regular-season conference title since 1997 and a school record-tying 32 wins, UCLA is off to its best start since the 1993-1994 squad opened with 14 triumphs.

Josh Shipp scored 18 points, Arron Afflalo added 17 and Darren Collison 15 for the Bruins, who shot nearly 59 percent (33-of-56) from the floor and set a season-high in points with Saturday's 92-55 win over Michigan.

The Bruins have won 48-of-49 encounters against the Cougars here, with the lone loss coming in 2004. UCLA holds an 89-13 bulge in the all-time series, including wins in 25 of the last 26 matchups.

However, Washington State is off to its best start since 1991-1992 and is on its way to ending s streak of 10 consecutive losing seasons. The Cougars have not won more than 13 games since 1995-1996.