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Channing Frye missed an open 10-foot bank shot with three seconds remaining that would have won the game for Arizona and the clock expired as the teams battled for the rebound. UCLA ran off the court before the call could be disputed with a pulse-racing 77-76 victory over the first place Wildcats.
"I thought (the shot) was good," Frye said, after the game. "I still don't know how it didn't go in."
"Channing usually knocks that shot down," Jason Gardner said. "It rolled in and out."
Arizona dropped to 17-7 overall, 10-4 in the Pac-10, while UCLA improved to 17-7 and 9-4; a half game behind the Wildcats for first place.
With 1:42 to play, Frye had a chance to extend Arizona's lead to three points but missed the second of two free throws to keep UCLA within two at 73-71. Less than a minute later, Bruin sharpshooter Jason Kapono hit a clutch three-pointer from the left wing to give UCLA its first lead since the 12:13 mark of the first half at 74-73.
After that basket, the final 1:06 turned out to be an outstanding individual duel between Arizona's Jason Gardner and Kapono for UCLA.
Arizona dribbled the ball down court, passed around for the majority of the shot clock and then let Gardner go to work. The Wildcat point guard had already made six of nine three-point attempts and wasn't phased at all when putting up attempt number ten from the top of the key off a screen from Rick Anderson. When the ball snapped the nets, the relatively large contingent of Arizona fans in Pauley Pavillion erupted as Arizona regained a 76-74 lead with only 33 seconds to play.
When UCLA opted not to call a timeout, it gave the Bruins the advantage to push the ball down court and look for an open shot. With the defense focused on the strong side of the ball, Bruin senior Matt Barnes grabbed rebound and found a wide open Kapono on the left wing for an open 22-footer. Kapono buried the shot to give the Bruins a 77-76 lead with 18.9 seconds to play.
"Jason is an outstanding shooter," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "You can't give someone like him an open look or he'll knock it down."
The Kapono three-pointer proved to be the winning basket and when Frye missed the open look, UCLA finalized a come from behind one-point win over the rival Wildcats.
For most of the game, Arizona had no answer for UCLA center Dan Gadzuric, who had yet another career-game against the Wildcats with 22 points and 16 rebounds while shooting 10-16 from the field. Last year, in UCLA's overtime victory over Arizona in Westwood, Gadzuric scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the Bruins over a red-hot Wildcat team.
"The number one thing that cost us in the game was our inability to handle Gadzuric on our defensive boards," Olson said. "But defensively we did a pretty good job with the exception of the glass."
UCLA controlled the boards all night and finished with a decisive 45-28 rebound advantage. Gadzuric had his 16 and Barnes added 15 off the glass. Arizona's leader on the boards was Rick Anderson, who had 10 rebounds to go along with 15 points. However, it was not enough.
"I feel like I didn't contribute with rebounds, especially defensive rebounds down the stretch," said a dejected Anderson. "I should have had the rebound at the end but Barnes got it and found Kapono for the (game-winning) shot."
Gardner finished with a game-high 25 points on 7-10 three-point shooting and Luke Walton added 17 points and eight assists.