TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—As a high school star, Darren Collison wanted to be Arizona’s next great point guard.
When the Wildcats showed little interest in recruiting him, Collison signed with UCLA, closer to his hometown of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
“(The Wildcats) had a lot of great guards, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Collison said. “Unfortunately, things don’t always go your way, which is fine. I’m glad that I chose UCLA as of right now.”
So are the Bruins. Collison scored 17 points and had a career-high 15 assists as the fifth-ranked Bruins whipped No. 19 Arizona 81-66 on Saturday.
The Bruins (23-3, 12-2 Pac-10) defeated Arizona for the fifth straight time.
“If we continue to beat Arizona, it’s going to make it even more special for me as well,” said Collison, a 6-foot-1 sophomore.
Collison committed only two turnovers in 35 minutes. He also hit 5-of-7 3-point shots.
Collison and Co. handed Lute Olson his second-worst home loss in 24 years at Arizona, only 22 days after then-No. 4 North Carolina buried Arizona 92-64 in McKale Center.
Olson would gladly take Collison now.
“I don’t think there is a better point guard in America than Collison,” Olson said.
This was the final home game for Olson’s senior point guard, Mustafa Shakur, who tied Marcus Williams for the team lead with 17 points.
Josh Shipp tied a career high with 24 points for UCLA. Shipp averages 12.8 points per game but had failed to break double figures in five of his last eight games.
Shipp hit 10-of-14 shots from the floor, 2-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“It’s definitely good for my confidence,” Shipp said. “I’m a shooter. I knew I had to keep shooting to get out of this slump.”
The Bruins shot holes in Arizona’s zone defense, hitting 52.5 percent from the floor and 46.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Olson blamed his players’ defense, or lack thereof.
“What needs to be done is that when somebody scores a basket off you, it should hurt,” Olson said. “It doesn’t hurt. That is the biggest problem we have.
“It has to hurt, like somebody stuck a knife in your heart,” Olson said.
This loss could turn out to be a dagger for the Wildcats (17-9, 8-7).
Arizona has gone to the NCAA tournament 22 straight times, the longest active streak and the second-longest in history behind North Carolina’s 27 in a row. But with seven losses in their last 11 games, the Wildcats are not offering a very persuasive case for the selection committee.
Arizona’s final three regular-season games are at Arizona State, at California and at Stanford.
The Wildcats have dropped five home games for the first time since 1986-87. They lost a total of three games in McKale Center from November 1987 to December 1994.
Former Wildcats stars Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton and Channing Frye attended. Too bad for Arizona they couldn’t play.
“We got a lesson taught to us,” Olson said. “We’ll see whether that pays off.”
Arizona fell to 4-14 against ranked opponents over the past two seasons. The Bruins, by contrast, are 8-1 against the Top 25 this season.
The victory kept the Bruins in first place in the Pac-10, one game ahead of Washington State.
Less than 40 hours earlier, the Bruins looked listless in a 67-61 victory over woeful Arizona State in Tempe, 90 miles away. But they came out afire in a game that tipped off at 11 a.m. in Tucson.
The Bruins scored the game’s first six points and never trailed. Arizona cut an early 12-point deficit to 35-34 at halftime. But Collison and Shipp each hit a 3-pointer in the first two minutes of the second half.
The Bruins made 8-of-15 3-pointers in the second half, and each one seemed to deflate the Wildcats.
“Our players came out passionately to start the game,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “This was one of our best games of the year.”