March 2, 2006
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Arron Afflalo will allow himself to enjoy his signature performance at UCLA for a few hours before setting his sights on bigger goals.
Afflalo scored 21 of his 25 points after halftime, including a tiebreaking 3-pointer midway through overtime, to help No. 15 UCLA clinch at least a share of its first Pac-10 title in nine years with a 67-58 victory over California on Thursday night.
"Right now we're co-Pac-10 champs," he said. "We're definitely not satisfied with that. We'll enjoy this bus ride and enjoy tonight, but after that, it's business as usual. ... Being co-champs was not one of our goals. It was being Pac-10 champs."
The Bruins (23-6, 13-4) took a big step toward getting there by scoring the final 12 points of overtime to avenge an early season loss to the Golden Bears.
UCLA can win the conference outright by beating Stanford on Saturday or with a Washington loss at Arizona. If the Huskies and Bruins finished tied, Washington would get the No. 1 seed in next week's tournament based on sweeping the season series.
Afflalo's 7-for-11 shooting after halftime helped the Bruins rally from an 11-point deficit and overcome a game-tying 3-pointer by Cal's Theo Robertson in the final minute of regulation.
"This was a great gut-check win for our team, our program," coach Ben Howland said. "To go through all that and have to go to overtime and to gut it out, it's a testament to these kids' character."
By losing three of its last four games - including two overtime games at home - California (17-9, 11-6) missed out on a chance at its first conference title since Pete Newell's final season as coach in 1960.
Cal hadn't been this close to a conference title since 1994, when the team led by Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray had a chance to tie Arizona for the crown on the final day of the season but lost at Washington State.
Now the Bears need to rebound Saturday against Southern California to solidify their chances of making the NCAA tournament.
"We can't operate now with our heads down," coach Ben Braun said. "We're disappointed. We've got basketball ahead of us and we have a huge game Saturday. It's important for our team to bounce back. The natural reaction might be to be down, but we can't afford that. We have to step up."
Afflalo's 3-pointer with 2:23 left in overtime gave UCLA the lead for good. Jordan Farmar, who missed eight of his first nine shots, scored with 1:21 left to make it 63-58. Farmar added four free throws to seal the victory.
"It's not about scoring, it's not about numbers," Farmar said. "As long as we win, I'm happy. Arron came up big and shot the ball great the second half. I just tried to find him and make plays."
Leon Powe scored 20 points to lead Cal, but had only five points after halftime. Ayinde Ubaka was held to 12 on 3-for-14 shooting. No other Bears player scored more than six and Cal missed its final seven shots after Ubaka opened the overtime with a 3-pointer.
"The first half was a little more wide open," Powe said. "I could get to the paint. But the second half, they closed that off real quick. When I put it on the floor, they came."
Darren Collison added 11 for the Bruins, who have outscored their last three opponents by 66 points after halftime. The teams split the season series for the eighth straight season.
Robertson sent the game to overtime for Cal, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner with 27 seconds left to tie the game at 55. Farmar missed a foul-line jumper at the buzzer for the Bruins.
Cal closed the first half with an 11-0 run, using its tight defense to force UCLA to miss all six shots and turn the ball over four times in a six-minute scoreless stretch.
Richard Midgley hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer to start the run. Powe then scored the next six points and Ubaka hit two free throws to cap the spurt and make it 31-20 at the break.
"Every half we come out nonchalant or lackadaisical or whatever you want to call it," Afflalo said. "Where's your pride? Where's your passion? Leon Powe came out and had 15 early. We weren't executing, we were stagnant. That's not our type of game. We got into what we do best in the second half. It's the same thing we did the past two games."
Afflalo, held to four points in the opening half, scored eight in the first four minutes of the second half to get UCLA back into it.
"As of right now, with this on the line, this game, this magnitude, this was the best I've seen him play," teammate Cedric Bozeman said.