ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The last time the rest of the country looked in on UCLA, the Bruins played their way into the national championship game with defense. They needed a big dose of it Saturday.
The Bruins survived their first serious challenge at #1 with late-game defensive stops in a 65-62 win over #6 Texas A&M in the John R. Wooden Classic.
``That was two teams fighting at it pretty hard,'' Aggies coach Billy Gillispie said. ``A lot of mistakes made, but a lot of big-time plays.''
Josh Shipp scored 18 points and foul-plagued Arron Afflalo had 8 of his 13 over the final nine minutes for the Bruins (8-0). Darren Collison added 15 points, but had 6 of the team's 13 turnovers.
``They came off a loss to LSU, so we knew we were going to get their best shot,'' Shipp said.
Acie Law scored 21 points for Texas A&M (7-2), which controlled the boards 34-23 and outshot UCLA in the 2nd half. Dominique Kirk added 12 points for the Aggies and Joseph Jones had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
``They stepped it up a little bit and they made plays and we didn't,'' Law said. ``The last five minutes we were in position to win, but we didn't.''
UCLA forced 20 turnovers that led to 22 points.
``It was like we couldn't dribble the ball past one defender at halfcourt,'' Gillispie said. ``Those exchanges are the ones that killed us.''
Texas A&M came into the game leading the country in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 32.2 percent. Both teams shot 25-51 (49 percent) in the nationally televised matchup of uptempo, defensive minded teams that didn't feature any major scoring runs.
``The intensity was going to remain high as long as the score was tight,'' Afflalo said. ``Neither team got a chance to pull away.''
Law's basket with 41 seconds remaining cut UCLA's lead to 63-60, and Collison stepped out of bounds near UCLA's bench, turning the ball over. But Jones missed what could have been a tying 3-pointer with 17 seconds to go.
``Perfect,'' Gillispie said about Jones' attempt. ``We didn't come here to play conservative. We had a better chance with that.''
The Aggies were forced to foul, and after struggling at the line the entire game, the Bruins got 2 from Collison for a 65-60 lead. Shipp was fouled and missed before Law's basket with two-tenths of a second left completed the scoring.
``Our defense was really tough down the stretch,'' UCLA coach Ben Howland said. ``That's one of the most physical games I can remember.''
The last time UCLA and Texas A&M played, on December 11, 1971, the Bruins won 117-53 in what stands as the worst loss in A&M history. The Aggies made it much closer this time, but couldn't spring the upset.
The Bruins led 33-27 at halftime, and extended their lead to 9 points three times, the last on Lorenzo Mata's putback that made it 44-35.
Josh Carter's first basket of the game was a timely 3-pointer that drew the Aggies within 2. Afflalo answered with a 3, his first points of the 2nd half, for a 52-47 lead.
Law scored twice in a row to cut UCLA's lead to 52-51, and a 3-point play by Jones with 6:42 remaining tied the game at 54.
Afflalo got knocked down on a 3-point attempt, but typical of the Bruins' poor free throw shooting, he made just one free throw, putting the Bruins ahead for good. They were 8-16 from the line.
Jones was called for a 3-second violation, but the Bruins didn't capitalize when Mata turned the ball over on the baseline. Law scored to draw the Aggies within 1.
After Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored his second basket of the game for a 59-56 lead, Mata fouled out, leaving a critical hole inside.
The Aggies turned the ball over coming out of a timeout and Afflalo scored with 3 1/2 minutes left for a 61-56 lead.
Texas A&M wasted another possession on a shot-clock violation, and Collison scored inside to keep the Bruins ahead by seven with 1 1/2 minutes to go.
Neither team shot well in the 1st half, with the Bruins missing several open looks.
Collison hit consecutive 3-pointers, including a wide-open one at the buzzer, to give UCLA its 6-point lead at halftime.
``I did a poor job and didn't find my man,'' Law said. ``Those two 3â€™s hurt us a lot with the game being so close at the end.''
UCLA's Alfred Aboya sustained a scratched eye after being hit by Law late in the 1st half. Mbah a Moute endured his second straight 4-point game, having missed practice time last week because of a strained groin muscle.
Wooden received a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 15,811 during a timeout late in the game, and the Aggies' bench joined in applauding the 96-year-old coach who led UCLA to 10 national championships before retiring in 1975.