TUCSON, Ariz. – Josh Shipp wasn’t just in a shooting slump. He had earned the distinction of being one of the worst shooting wings in the Pacific-10 Conference. Yet, as he stood outside UCLA’s locker room flashing his ever-present smile while minimizing the importance Saturday’s long-overdue breakout game, he said he always maintained confidence with his shooting. Just think how high Shipp’s confidence is now, after he made 10 of 14 shots and tied a career-high with 24 points to lead No. 5 UCLA to an easy 81-66 defeat of defensively inept 19th-ranked Arizona in front of 14,611 fans at McKale Center. UCLA (23-3, 12-2 Pac-10) stretched its lead to a game over idle Washington State, while the Wildcats (17-9, 8-7) suffered through their second- worst home loss in coach Lute Olson’s 24 seasons. In the process, the Bruins strengthened their position for a No. 1 seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament and showed how dangerous they can be when a third scorer surfaces. “It’s about time, and it’s perfect timing,” UCLA guard Arron Afflalo said. “If a guy is going to go through his mental struggles, I’m glad he went through (them) at that portion of the season. Now, it’s the most important time, when you want your better players to come along.” Bruins point guard Darren Collison scored 17 points and had a career-high 15 assists, one off Earl Watson’s school record. Afflalo added 15 points, but it was Shipp’s performance that solicited all the smiles. He came in shooting 15.8 percent from 3-point range in league play and was two for his past 19. In his past seven games, Shipp was shooting 38.3 percent (18 of 47) from the field and averaging 8.8 points, well off the 14.1 points he was averaging before the slump. “Numbers lie sometimes. You can’t always go by the numbers, because they don’t always tell the whole story,” Shipp said. “I know I can shoot the ball, so I kept shooting. I’m not going to lie, it felt good. I’m going to keep shooting, though.” With Afflalo dogged by foul trouble and an errant touch, Collison needed a scoring partner. Shipp obliged. He found his groove with a 3-pointer that gave UCLA a 28-23 lead 7:08 before the half, and he remained in the flow. Shipp scored seven of UCLA’s nine points as the Bruins stretched a 38-36 lead to 47-40 early in the second half, and his jumper from the left with 4:43 to play gave UCLA a 68-59 lead. “Josh Shipp had a tremendous game,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “I think this is going to be a turning point for Josh Shipp, getting back on track the way he was playing earlier this year. I’m telling you that right now. He played with great poise and confidence.” Marcus Williams and Mustafa Shakur each scored 17points for Arizona, but the offensive end is not why the Wildcats are mired in the middle of the Pac-10 and wearing the tag of enigma. UCLA, which never trailed, obliterated Arizona’s lackadaisical 2-3zone by getting wide open 3-pointers – the Bruins were 13 of 28 from beyond the arc – getting alley-oop dunks on the backside and corralling every loose ball. In fact, Arizona’s defense was so porous, uninspired and inactive it committed just threefouls in the first 37 minutes, 50 seconds. “It’s got to hurt you; it’s got to be like someone stuck a knife in you when someone scores,” Olson said of Arizona’s defense. “We don’t have that, and I’m sure that’s our fault as coaches. It’s not that we don’t know what we are doing, it’s that we are having a difficult time getting some key guys to play defense like their life depends on it.” Olson experienced his first weekend sweep in Pac-10 play since his first season with the Wildcats. The loss came threeweeks after Olson suffered his worst home loss at Arizona, a 92-64 thrashing by No. 4 North Carolina. “When talking to our team, I said that (UCLA’s defense) is an example of what needs to be done,” Olson said. “That’s the kind of effort that it takes. If someone scores a bucket off of you, it should hurt, and it doesn’t hurt right now (for some guys). That’s the biggest problem we have.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!