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February 25, 2011

UCLA look to get back on winning track

Coming off its first loss in more than a month, Pac-10 leader Arizona will look to bounce back in a crucial matchup with second-place UCLA.

With a chance to clinch at least a share of the regular-season conference championship, the 10th-ranked Wildcats will try for a fifth win in six games versus the Bruins when the teams meet Saturday.

After averaging 81.3 points during a season-best eight-game winning streak, Arizona (23-5, 12-3) was held to its lowest scoring output of the season in a 65-57 loss at Southern California on Thursday night.

Pac-10 player of the year candidate Derrick Williams, first in the conference in field-goal percentage (61.6) and second with 19.3 points per game, was held to a season-low eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.

"Honestly, I think it was good for us to lose," said Williams, who had 11 rebounds for the second consecutive game and is averaging 9.2 in Pac-10 play. "We were getting too big-headed, thinking we can beat everybody, we can beat anybody. I'm kind of glad we lost and came down to earth."

The Wildcats could come down further Saturday because a loss would drop them into a tie with the Bruins (20-8, 11-4) atop the conference standings.

A win, however, would give Arizona at least a share of its first regular-season Pac-10 championship since 2004-05. The Wildcats close their schedule next week with home games against Oregon State and Oregon.

"That's the hard part right now of kind of juggling the stretch run of a season," coach Sean Miller said. "You forget that you have some really hungry teams awaiting you because of the success you've had. It's as hard to finish out a really good season as it is to establish one."

Lamont Jones averaged 14.3 points during the eight-game win streak, including 17 in an 85-74 win over the Bruins on Jan. 27, but was held to nine points on 3-of-12 shooting versus the Trojans.

Williams scored 22 points in the Jan. 27 win as Arizona recorded its fourth victory in five games in the series - the lone loss was in last year's Pac-10 tournament. The Wildcats had lost four straight at UCLA before winning there last season, 77-63 behind Kyle Fogg's 25 points.

Fogg, who made 7 of 10 3-pointers en route to a career high-tying 26 points in a March 4 win over the Bruins, is averaging 18.8 points - 10.4 more than his three-year mark - in his last four meetings with them.

UCLA, winner of 11 of 13, regrouped from Sunday's 76-72 overtime loss at California with a convincing 71-53 win over last-place Arizona State on Thursday night.

Malcolm Lee led five Bruins in double figures with 16 points, Lazeric Jones had 10 with 10 assists and Reeves Nelson added 12 points and 12 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season - second-most in the conference.

Nelson has recorded back-to-back double-doubles versus Arizona, averaging 21.5 points on 85.7 percent shooting and 10.0 rebounds.

The Bruins, 15-2 at home, are seeking a seventh consecutive conference win at Pauley Pavilion for the first time since going 9-0 in Pac-10 home games in 2006-07, when they reached the Final Four.

UCLA hasn't faced a ranked team since defeating then-No. 16 BYU 86-79 in the Wooden Classic on Dec. 18.



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