STANFORD, Calif. (AP)—After 135 games over five very successful seasons at UCLA, Josh Shipp knows a few things about getting his team out of a funk.
Most of them don’t even involve shooting, although Shipp did plenty of that to finish off Stanford.
Shipp hit four 3-pointers while scoring 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, and the 22nd-ranked Bruins stayed in the race for a fourth consecutive Pac-10 title with a 76-71 victory over the fading Cardinal on Thursday night.
When Stanford took an early 14-point lead by making 10 of its first 11 shots, Shipp calmed his teammates by reminding them to concentrate on defense first. UCLA (21-7, 10-5) got itself together and tied it near halftime before hanging on in the second half for just its second win in five games.
“I knew I had to pick up my intensity level and do whatever it takes to stop them,” said Shipp, who had seven rebounds and four assists. “We know how important these games are as seniors. We’re just doing whatever it takes to win.”
UCLA’s eighth win in nine meetings with Stanford (15-11, 4-11) halted a slump that nearly ended the Bruins’ outside shot at another conference crown. Instead, the Bruins are headed into an essential elimination game Saturday at California, which joined Arizona State in a second-place tie with the Bruins after beating USC in overtime.
Alfred Aboya hit four free throws in the final 14 seconds to finish with 16 points for the Bruins, who hung on despite making just one field goal over the final 4 1/2 minutes.
“We’ve learned from past experiences, and that’s what we talked about at halftime,” said Aboya, who scored 12 points in the second half. “We were in the same situation in (last week’s loss to) Washington State. We understand now that defense is our bread and butter. If we get stops, then we’ll have a chance to win.”
UCLA, which was alone atop the conference standings just three weeks ago, probably would need a perfect finish to have a chance at another outright Pac-10 title. That’s not even on the mind of coach Ben Howland, who was grateful to see his team’s response after another night of early struggles.
“The parity is so great in this league, I think we really have to be at our optimum in order to succeed,” said Howland, who took the last three UCLA teams to the Final Four. “(Stanford) is a very talented group of guys. We had to even play up tighter on them. The scouting report says (Anthony) Goods has 25-foot range. Well, he has 27-foot range at home.”
Goods scored 18 points for Stanford, which has lost eight of 10 to endanger its postseason hopes despite a perfect nonconference record. Landry Fields added 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Josh Owens had 14 points for the Cardinal, who lost all three meetings with UCLA last season before receiving a 97-63 thrashing at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 31.
“Josh Shipp really stepped up when they were down,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “He really gave them some energy and gave them a lift, took it upon himself to make some plays and give them some momentum at the end of the first half. I thought he was really good tonight.”
UCLA never pulled away from Stanford despite Shipp’s end-to-end excellence. His layup with 4:35 to play put UCLA up 69-61, but the Bruins managed just one field goal, a tip-in by Aboya, after that.
Stanford pulled within 72-70 when Goods made one free throw with 41 seconds left. Aboya then hit two free throws after getting fouled while missing a dunk, and the Cardinal couldn’t hit their final 3-point attempt.
“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had a tough road lately, but we still have time to turn it around,” Dawkins said. “But you have to believe, and then you have to go out and execute.”
Stanford wraps up its home schedule against USC on Saturday.
UCLA played without backup power forward James Keefe, who experienced back spasms in the morning shootaround.
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