- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Knowing a few more victories could help improve its seeding in the NCAA tournament, No. 15 UCLA went after Washington State from the opening tipoff.

Darren Collison scored 15 points in the Bruins’ 64-53 victory Thursday night that extended their winning streak to five games in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals.

The Bruins (25-7) advanced to Friday’s semifinals against crosstown rival Southern California, a 79-75 winner over California. The second-seeded Bruins swept the sixth-seeded Trojans (19-12) in the regular season.

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“The team felt great. Everybody was really in it,” Collison said. “When our intensity is at a high level, it’s going to be real tough to beat us.”

Washington State sure found that out.

Aron Baynes was the only player in double figures with 22 points for the Cougars (17-15), who shot 30 percent from the floor. The big Aussie was limited to six rebounds.

“I thought we got out-toughed today,” Cougars coach Tony Bennett said. “How we needed to play didn’t show itself until near the end. They came out ready and took it right to us.”

Washington State used a 13-4 run over the end of the first half and start of the second to close to 33-24, capped by Taylor Rochestie’s 3-pointer, his only field goal of the game.

The Cougars didn’t get within single digits again until the final minute.

With Collison smothering him, Rochestie was 1-for-11 for eight points, while freshman Klay Thompson was 2-of-11 for five points.

“We did a really good job defensively,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “That’s definitely one of our best defensive efforts in quite a while and that’s what it takes to win in postseason play.”

Rochestie scored a career-high 33 points in his team’s 82-81 victory at Pauley Pavilion last month.

“When a team is up on you like that and basically controlled the game, you have to give them credit. We weren’t getting any defensive stops,” he said. “They just did their thing. The UCLA defense is a lot of pressure. We had to hit some shots and we didn’t. We had to get some stops and we didn’t.”

UCLA scored seven in a row, hitting five of six free throws, to go up 40-24. The Cougars answered with six consecutive points, but still trailed 40-30.

Four straight free throws by Collison and Alfred Aboya pushed UCLA’s lead to 51-32 with 7:57 remaining, giving coach Ben Howland a chance to rest his starters until reinserting all of them late. Nikola Dragovic added 12 points, and Josh Shipp and freshman Jrue Holiday had 10 points each.

The Cougars struggled offensively in the first half, hitting just 7-of-34 from the floor while the Bruins shot 41 percent and led 33-21.

Baynes scored Washington State’s first five points to put the Cougars ahead by one _ their only lead _ before the Bruins went on a 22-5 run to take a 28-10 lead. Shipp scored eight points, hitting two 3-pointers, and Collison added four.

“I looked at Baynes, he was almost hyperventilating, he played so hard,” Bennett said.

Washington State led all the way in beating Oregon 62-40 in a first-round game Wednesday night, while the well-rested Bruins had been practicing since beating the Ducks in their regular-season finale last Saturday.

The Bruins and Cougars split their regular season meetings, with the two games decided by a total of three points. This one was a blowout until the closing minutes.

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