Dec. 29, 2007
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Darren Collison was in great spirits after helping No. 5 UCLA roll past outmanned UC Davis 76-48 on Saturday night, and not just because the Bruins won.
The speedy point guard bid a most happy goodbye to the brace he's been wearing since sitting out the first six games of the season because of a sprained left knee.
"He should be taking his brace off for practice Monday," Bruins coach Ben Howland said after Collison shot 6-of-9 for a game-high 14 points against the Aggies.
Freshman Kevin Love had 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots; Josh Shipp and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 10 points apiece; and Russell Westbrook had nine points and six assists. The Bruins completed the nonconference portion of their schedule with a 12-1 record, going 8-1 at home, 3-0 at neutral sites and 1-0 on the road.
The two-time defending Pac-10 regular-season champions open league play Thursday night at Stanford having won five straight games by an average of 24 points since their only loss, a 63-61 setback to No. 9 Texas on Dec. 2.
"I can't wait to play against Stanford without the brace," Collison said. "It was real uncomfortable. We'll see how it goes without the brace. It was limiting me defensively. I think I'll be 80 to 85 percent against Stanford."
Said Love: "Now, it's the 18 games we're looking forward to. We want to win the Pac-10 outright."
The Bruins tuned up by playing a team that uses a deliberate offensive approach similar to what Howland believes they'll see at Stanford and again at California two days later.
"The Cal and Stanford trip is going to be extremely tough," Howland said. "They have four NBA-caliber big men between them. Both teams also have good players around their front court."
Lorenzo Mata-Real, UCLA's top reserve and second-leading rebounder, sat out the game due to a strained left groin. Howland expects Mata-Real to be able to practice Monday.
The Bruins outrebounded UC Davis 31-16, and the Aggies committed a season-high 21 turnovers in losing for the fourth time in five games.
Kyle Brucculeri and Shane Hanson scored 11 points each for UC Davis (5-7), which has lost 13 straight road games including six this season.
"We're kind of disappointed that we couldn't get the job done," UC Davis coach Gary Stewart said. "But there are some things that we can build on. This is a good tape for us to evaluate our team.
"We're only going to get better playing against teams like this. We hope to make strides from this experience. We shot 50 percent against a team like UCLA. That shows us what we're capable of."
The Aggies shot 18-of-37 while the Bruins were 33-of-62.
After Hanson's 3-pointer early in the second half trimmed UCLA's lead to 10 points, the Bruins outscored the Aggies 20-3 for a 57-30 lead with 6 minutes remaining. UC Davis had separate scoring droughts of 6 and 7 minutes during the run.
A telling sign came in the first 2 minutes when UCLA got three offensive rebounds, setting up its first two baskets. Thirteen of the Bruins' 16 first-half rebounds came at the offensive end.
UCLA, which never trailed despite shooting 2-for-11 to start the game, took command by scoring 13 straight points for 19-5 lead midway through the first half. The Aggies had committed nine turnovers and attempted only five shots at that stage.
The Bruins led by as many as 15 points before settling for a 37-24 halftime lead. The Aggies were 13 points down at the break despite shooting 10-of-15, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
The game was the first between the schools since UCLA won a 34-32 decision in the 1939-40 season. UC Davis is playing its first full season as an NCAA Division I team and as a full-fledged member of the Big West Conference. The Aggies were 5-23 last season, but shocked Stanford 64-58 late in the 2005-06 season, when they went 8-20.