LOS ANGELES -- Darren Collison didn't need a controversial foul call Saturday. This time, the UCLA guard broke Stanford's heart by himself. He carved through the defense for backbreaking, shot-clock-beating baskets that prevented the Cardinal from claiming the Pac-10 tournament title.
Nine days after Collison's two free throws with 2.5 seconds left in regulation propelled the Bruins to a regular-season conference-clinching victory over Stanford, the junior scored 28 points at Staples Center to lead UCLA to a 67-64 victory in the Pac-10 tournament final.
When Anthony Goods' desperation 3-point attempt from near midcourt hit the rim at the buzzer, the No. 3-ranked Bruins (31-3) celebrated another milestone in their quest for the NCAA championship.
No. 11 Stanford, meanwhile, lamented about a third consecutive loss to the Pac-10's dominant program.
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"It's definitely hard to take," Goods said. "Nobody likes losing, especially when you work this hard and have come this far. But they played well and beat us on the boards and that's pretty much the end of the story."
The Cardinal (26-7) had a lot of reasons to feel good about its chances Saturday. The Bruins were hurting inside -- power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (ankle) did not play and center Kevin Love was not himself after injuring his back early in the game. UCLA also missed 14 of 23 free-throw tries and shot just 38 percent (27 of 71).
But the Bruins outrebounded Stanford 21-5 at the offensive end and 43-35 overall, and got big plays from Collison every time they needed one.
"Darren was really special today, especially on that pick and roll where he was reading and making plays," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "Do you think that Darren Collison deserves to be a first-team all-league player in the Pac-10? I don't know, just asking."
Collison was only second-team All-Pac-10, but he was all-world against the Cardinal. With Collison leading the way, the Bruins overcame an eight-point first-half deficit to build a 10-point cushion with a little more than two minutes left.
But Stanford made a last-ditch run and trailed by only three points when UCLA's James Keefe missed two free throws -- the second one an airball -- with 19.3 seconds left.
Cardinal coach Trent Johnson said he didn't have a problem with a two-point attempt if it occurred within the rhythm of the offense. But the two-point basket came a little late -- Lawrence Hill's dunk off a pass from Mitch Johnson that cut the lead to 65-64 came with 3.1 seconds left.
"I saw the game clock," Mitch Johnson said. "I felt there was still enough time. I didn't want to throw up a Hail Mary shot or throw a turnover. So I saw Lawrence cut at the last second and figured we'll take points now and see what happens."
After Hill's basket, Trent Johnson wanted his players to foul Russell Westbrook or Keefe. But the inbounds pass went to Collison, the Bruins' best free-throw shooter. He made two free throws with 2.9 seconds to go, leaving the Cardinal with only Goods' last-second heave to force overtime. The shot hit the front of the rim.
"It was just a little off to the right," said Goods, who hit four 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.
The loss aside, the Cardinal still had a pretty encouraging weekend. By beating Washington State and Arizona and taking UCLA to the wire for the second time in less than two weeks, Stanford probably locked up a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a trip to Anaheim for the first and second rounds.
"I never feel good about losing," Trent Johnson said. "But we feel good about their effort and how far this team has come. I don't think anybody in here picked us to be in this situation. But we're not into moral victories."
Stanford's quest for victory Saturday began to fade midway through the second half. Collison spun and drove for a layup that ignited a 10-0 run that put UCLA in front 49-43 with 8:38 to play. Two free throws by Robin Lopez and Goods' 3-pointer whittled the lead to 50-48. But the Bruins widened the advantage back to seven points on a putback from Keefe and a 3-pointer from Love.
"We didn't meet our goal today," Hill said. "But we still have games to play."