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December 9, 2006
A&M drops heartbreaker to No. 1 UCLA, 65-62
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The last time the rest of the country looked in on UCLA, the Bruins played their way into the national championship game with defense. They needed a big dose of it Saturday.
The Bruins survived their first serious challenge at No. 1 with late-game defensive stops in a 65-62 win over No. 6 Texas A&M in the John R. Wooden Classic.
"That was two teams fighting at it pretty hard," Aggies coach Billy Gillispie said. "A lot of mistakes made, but a lot of big-time plays."
Josh Shipp scored 18 points and foul-plagued Arron Afflalo had eight of his 13 over the final nine minutes for the Bruins (8-0). Darren Collison added 15 points, but had six of the team's 13 turnovers.
"They came off a loss to LSU, so we knew we were going to get their best shot," Shipp said.
Acie Law scored 21 points for Texas A&M (7-2), which controlled the boards 34-23 and outshot UCLA in the second half. Dominique Kirk added 12 points for the Aggies and Joseph Jones had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
"They stepped it up a little bit and they made plays and we didn't," Law said. "The last five minutes we were in position to win, but we didn't."
UCLA forced 20 turnovers that led to 22 points.
"It was like we couldn't dribble the ball past one defender at halfcourt," Gillispie said. "Those exchanges are the ones that killed us."
Texas A&M came into the game leading the country in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 32.2 percent. Both teams shot 25-of-51 (49 percent) in the nationally televised matchup of uptempo, defensive-minded teams that didn't feature any major scoring runs.
"The intensity was going to remain high as long as the score was tight," Afflalo said. "Neither team got a chance to pull away."
Law's basket with 41 seconds remaining cut UCLA's lead to 63-60, and Collison stepped out of bounds near UCLA's bench, turning the ball over. But Jones missed what could have been a tying 3-pointer with 17 seconds to go.
"Perfect," Gillispie said about Jones' attempt. "We didn't come here to play conservative. We had a better chance with that."
The Aggies were forced to foul, and after struggling at the line the entire game, the Bruins got two from Collison for a 65-60 lead. Shipp was fouled and missed before Law's basket with two-tenths of a second left completed the scoring.
"Our defense was really tough down the stretch," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "That's one of the most physical games I can remember."
The last time UCLA and Texas A&M played, on Dec. 11, 1971, the Bruins won 117-53 in what stands as the worst loss in A&M history. The Aggies made it much closer this time, but couldn't spring the upset.
The Bruins led 33-27 at halftime, and extended their lead to nine points three times, the last on Lorenzo Mata's putback that made it 44-35.
Josh Carter's first basket of the game was a timely 3-pointer that drew the Aggies within two. Afflalo answered with a 3 -- his first points of the second half -- for a 52-47 lead.
Law scored twice in a row to cut UCLA's lead to 52-51, and a three-point play by Jones with 6:42 remaining tied the game at 54.
Afflalo got knocked down on a 3-point attempt, but typical of the Bruins' poor free throw shooting, he made just one free throw, putting the Bruins ahead for good. They were 8-of-16 from the line.
Jones was called for a 3-second violation, but the Bruins didn't capitalize when Mata turned the ball over on the baseline. Law scored to draw the Aggies within one.
After Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored his second basket of the game for a 59-56 lead, Mata fouled out, leaving a critical hole inside.
The Aggies turned the ball over coming out of a timeout and Afflalo scored with 3½ minutes left for a 61-56 lead.
Texas A&M wasted another possession on a shot-clock violation, and Collison scored inside to keep the Bruins ahead by seven with 1½ minutes to go.
Neither team shot well in the first half, with the Bruins missing several open looks.
Collison hit consecutive 3-pointers, including a wide-open one at the buzzer, to give UCLA its six-point lead at halftime.
"I did a poor job and didn't find my man," Law said. "Those two 3s hurt us a lot with the game being so close at the end."
UCLA's Alfred Aboya sustained a scratched eye after being hit by Law late in the first half. Mbah a Moute endured his second straight four-point game, having missed practice time last week because of a strained groin muscle.
Wooden received a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 15,811 during a timeout late in the game, and the Aggies' bench joined in applauding the 96-year-old coach who led UCLA to 10 national championships before retiring in 1975.