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JEROME RANDLE of Cal covers his face with his jersey after the Bears lost to UCLA in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Cal hung with UCLA but was unable to pull out the win. (ANDA CHU/STAFF )

BERKELEY — They restored the roar Saturday night at Haas Pavilion, but it wasn't enough.

Darren Collison, who has directed UCLA's basketball team to three straight Final Fours, was the best player on the floor when it mattered as the No. 22 Bruins spoiled Cal's first sellout of the season with a 72-68 victory in front of a national ESPN audience.

Collison scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the final 8 minutes, including a driving dagger to the heart of the Bears with 26.7 seconds left, helping the Bruins (22-7, 11-5 Pac-10) take over sole possession of second place in the Pac-10 standings.

"That's why he is what he is," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of the UCLA senior point guard. "Collison is such a clutch player and he makes plays late in the clock better than anyone."

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Cal (21-8, 10-6), which lost at home for just the second time in 17 games, is tied for third place with Arizona State as it prepares to visit Arizona this week to close the regular season.

Fueled by the loudest crowd at Haas in several seasons, the Bears led by as many as seven points in the first half and were ahead 53-49 with less than 10 minutes left. They seemed in position to secure just their second win over UCLA in their past 10 meetings, and second place in the conference with it.

But Collison keyed a 13-0 run with seven points and an assist that gave UCLA a 62-53 lead with 6:09 left. Then he somehow made a one-handed, 16-foot floater over Jerome Randle just as the shot clock was expiring with 1:28 left.


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"We couldn't have defended better than that," Montgomery said. "It becomes fairly deflating."

A minute later, with UCLA nursing a 69-65 lead, Collison stood out front dribbling away the clock before winding his way into the lane for a layup that pushed the margin to six points.

Randle hit a 3-pointer with 16.1 seconds left, but Josh Shipp essentially iced the win by making the second of two free throws with 7.8 seconds on the clock.

Montgomery was pleased by the performance of Randle, his junior floor leader, who had 20 points and eight assists. But Randle came away with continued respect for Collison.

"He's a tough player ... an NBA player," Randle said. "During the course of the game he told me it was a hell of a game. So I felt I was giving him a tough match."

The Bears gave the Bruins a battle from the start. Patrick Christopher started hot and wound up with 16 points. Theo Robertson scored 14, 12 of them in the second half. Cal played the Bruins even on the boards.

And the atmosphere was magnificent.

"It's what I'd like to see all the time," Montgomery said. "We'd like to earn the right to have that."

But Cal had 12 first-half turnovers and couldn't match the Bruins' poise at the game's key moments.

The Bears led 28-23 late in the first half when one play changed the game.

UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic got loose on the baseline after a wild scramble, but instead of letting him score a layup, Robertson wrapped his arms around him. Dragovic made the basket and Robertson was whistled for an intentional foul.

Dragovic made two free throws, UCLA got the ball back, and when Michael Roll dropped in a 3-point shot, the Bruins had completed a seven-point play for a 30-28 lead with 2:45 left.

Montgomery had no complaints about the call but acknowledged, "It's just hard to take in a game like that. That's lot of points to give up in one possession."

More, ultimately, than the Bears could afford.

Contact Jeff Faraudo at jeffscribe@aol.com.

UCLA 72, cal 68
  • next game: Thursday, at Arizona, 7:30 p.m.

    Pac 10 standings
    Conference Overall
    W L W L
    Washington 13 4 22 7
    UCLA 11 5 22 7
    Cal 10 6 21 8
    Arizona St. 10 6 21 7
    Arizona 8 8 18 11
    Washington St. 8 9 16 13
    Oregon St. 7 8 13 13
    USC 7 9 16 12
    Stanford 5 11 16 11
    Oregon 1 14 7 20
  • inside: Forward Jon Brockman scores 19 points to lead Washington past Arizona to clinch at least a tie for the Pac-10 regular season championship. The Huskies topped the Wildcats 83-78. Page 6