STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- A drenched Ben Howland rattled off
everything UCLA did well to win the Pac-10: stingy defense,
heads-up passing, unselfishness on and off the court.
The Bruins can now savor the conference championship all alone.
Arron Afflalo led four players in double figures with 16 points
and UCLA (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today; No. 15 AP) captured its first conference title in nine years
Saturday with a 75-54 victory against Stanford, securing the top
seed in next week's Pac-10 tournament.
"I'm so happy for our guys," said Howland, the third-year
coach credited for turning around a storied program that reached
national prominence under Hall of Famer John Wooden. "I'm most
glad we're Pac-10 champions. We decided it ourselves. We don't have
to wait for anybody and get in backdoor. Any time you win a
championship it's special."
Jordan Farmar added 13 points and seven assists, Ryan Hollins
had 13 points and eight rebounds, while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
contributed 12 points and nine rebounds. Michael Roll hit three
3-pointers for nine points, and UCLA rode its impressive defense to
an emotional win that disappointed the raucous, sold-out crowd of
7,334 in Maples Pavilion.
UCLA (24-6, 14-4 Pac-10) had already clinched a share of its
first conference regular-season title since 1997 with Thursday
night's 67-58 overtime win at California.
This is the Bruins' eighth league crown overall and they won it
outright by sweeping the season series from Stanford for the first
time since 1995 -- the year of UCLA's last NCAA title in coach Jim
Harrick's second-to-last season at the school. The team's lone loss
that year came at Oregon.
Dan Grunfeld scored 14 points and Anthony Goods 12 for sloppy
Stanford (15-12, 11-7), which now probably must win next week's
conference tournament to earn an NCAA bid and avoid ending a streak
of 11 straight trips to the tournament.
The Cardinal received an at-large berth with 18 wins last season
-- though they played a more difficult schedule and some of their
losses came to prestigious teams such as Michigan State, Louisville
Stanford pulled within nine points on a 3-pointer by Lawrence
Hill with 12:25 left, but couldn't get closer. Howland emptied his
bench with 1:12 to play and the Bruins celebrated mildly when the
final buzzer sounded before heading to the locker room.
That's when the players poured the water cooler over Howland,
soaking his blue collared shirt and matching tie.
"That's the way you want it -- you want to control your own
destiny," Afflalo said. "We've played some tough games, some
UCLA didn't even have to wait on the result of Washington's game
at Arizona later in the day. Had the Bruins lost, they needed
Washington to lose in Tucson to win outright.
The Bruins beat Stanford 71-54 in Los Angeles on Dec. 29 to end
a six-game losing streak to the Cardinal and eight-game skid in
Pauley Pavilion. UCLA hadn't won in Maples Pavilion since a 95-92
victory Feb. 23, 2002.
The game marked the last home contest for Chris Hernandez,
Grunfeld, Jason Haas and Matt Haryasz -- though the Cardinal still
could host an NIT game. The seniors were honored in a pregame
ceremony that featured video highlights of their careers.
"We're realistic," Grunfeld said. "The NIT is probably in the
back of our minds, but it doesn't do any good to speculate at this
point. We just know we have to go out and play hard every time."
Hernandez didn't score his first basket until Stanford's first
possession of the second half after taking just one shot and
committing four turnovers to one assist in 11 minutes of action in
the first half. But he picked up his third foul at the 17:44 mark
of the second half.
Haryasz, 0-for-5 in the first half, made his first field goal
moments after Hernandez's made basket. He finished with eight
points and Hernandez had nine.
"I can't remember a team that's come in here and beat us as
handily as that team did," Cardinal coach Trent Johnson said.
"This was by far the best team we faced this year. They took Matt
away, made Chris work and they made more shots."
Stanford took a 5-0 lead and UCLA started the game 0-for-3, but
the Cardinal committed eight turnovers in the opening six minutes
and the Bruins took advantage with a 19-4 spurt. Stanford struggled
to take shots against the Bruins' pressure man defense -- managing
only eight shots in the first 10½ minutes.
UCLA led 38-24 at the break and held Stanford to 35 percent from
the field (7-for-20).