Collison, Bruins move into first-place tie atop Pac-10

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA went to the basket and the free throw line, places it hadn't been in losing two of three games.

Playing with a "push, push, push" mentality, Darren Collison scored 18 points and the Bruins (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) beat California 81-66 on Thursday night to climb back into a first-place tie atop the Pac-10.

The Bruins (16-4, 6-2) had fallen out of first with last weekend's defeat at Washington (No. 23 AP), but the Huskies lost 106-97 at Arizona on Thursday night to drop into a tie with UCLA.

"Darren Collison had one of his best performances this season," Bruins coach Ben Howland said. "He did an outstanding job stopping the ball in transition. He attacked the basket and we all did a good job in transition off of their turnovers. Our offense really started with a good defense."

Freshman Jrue Holiday added 13 points and Josh Shipp had 11 for the Bruins. Howland improved to 13-4 against Cal, the most success he's had against any opponent in 15 years of coaching.

"I definitely tried to get in there and create contact and get to the free throw line," Holiday said. "It was really on my mind."

The Bruins were 21-of-23 from the line for a season-best 91 percent, after making just 15 trips in the loss at Washington and 10 in a two-point win over Washington State.

Alfred Aboya and Michael Roll added 10 points each for UCLA.

"We got a lot easier baskets than we had in the last two games," Collison said. "We did a good job of moving. We're right there. We just got to do some other things well."

Theo Robertson scored all of his 19 points in the second half to lead the Golden Bears (16-5, 5-3), who remained tied for second in the conference despite losing three of four. Jerome Randle added 11 points.

Robertson, the nation's leading 3-point shooter, was 3-of-4 from long range and the Bears, who as a team lead the nation, hit 60 percent from beyond the arc.

"We never did anything well enough to win a game like this," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "They just physically dominated us. We allowed them to do it to us. That's no way to play UCLA."

The Bruins blew open an eight-point game with a 20-7 run to start the second half. Shipp and Nikola Dragovic hit 3-pointers and Aboya had four points as the lead stretched to 51-30.

Cal missed on three straight possessions, then turned the ball over on a fourth while six UCLA players were scoring.

The Bruins had 16 steals -- their most in a Pac-10 game this season -- to feed their offense. They had 12 steals in the first half. UCLA shot 55 percent from the field and controlled the boards 34-23.

"The guys realized how important this game was. We were coming off a loss," Shipp said. "We were all over the place, running for everything."

Collison had 12 points in the first half, when the Bruins effectively double-teamed the Bears to cause 16 of their 21 turnovers.

"We dug ourselves a huge hole in the first half," Robertson said. "We didn't come out and match their physicality. They got out in transition and they got some dunks. You can't give a team like that easy looks, especially at home."

Cal closed within two points later in the first half on consecutive 3-pointers by Randle and D.J. Seeley, but the Bruins ran off eight consecutive points and the Bears never got that close the rest of the game.