The senior had 18 points and six assists while playing 39 minutes in the 10th-ranked Bruins' 64-60 victory Sunday night, their ninth in a row.
"I did get tired, but that's part of the game," said Collison, who played seven minutes more than any of his teammates. "Coach yelled at me and said, 'We need you so bad.' "
Nikola Dragovic added 14 points in his first start of the season for the Bruins (13-2, 3-0 Pac-10), who have won all three meetings at Galen Center since the arena opened. Jrue Holiday added 13 points while shutting down friend and rival freshman DeMar DeRozan in the second half, and Josh Shipp had 10 points.
"I'm real proud of my team. They really fought," Collison said. "We really hung in there together. Nikola was our X-factor."
DeRozan scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half for the Trojans (10-5, 1-2), who lost for the first time in nine home games. Taj Gibson added 13 points while playing the second half with three fouls and Daniel Hackett also had 13.
USC blew a six-point lead in the second half and was outplayed during the final 4½ minutes.
"We needed to knock down a perimeter shot or two and couldn't," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "Being 1-2 in league is less of a hole than a year ago when we were 0-3. We've been close a lot."
The Trojans were coming off a 62-58 overtime loss at Oregon State in which they led by 15 points in the second half. UCLA opened Pac-10 play by sweeping the Oregon schools on the road.
"The rivalry was everything I thought it would be," DeRozan said. "It showed us how tough we can be down the stretch. We had a few mistakes that really killed us."
As always, emotions ran high between the crosstown rivals. At 10:37 of the first half, UCLA freshman Drew Gordon struck Hackett in the jaw with his elbow after a play ended. Gordon put his arms in the air to get by Hackett, who appeared to get into Gordon's space. Neither player was penalized after referees decided it was an inadvertent elbow, not intentional.
"I got elbowed in the mouth. Gordon hit me in the face," Hackett said. "I don't know if he did it on purpose, but that's USC-UCLA stuff."
Gordon said it wasn't on purpose and said he apologized to Hackett later.
"It was nothing personal," Gordon said. "I put my arms up. He was walking back, we were jawing. I tried to back away and his face met my arm."
Less than a minute later, Floyd received a warning for being out of the coach's box, and he reacted hotly.
Gibson, USC's leading scorer and double-figure rebounder, was limited to six minutes in the first half after picking up his third foul. He fouled out late.
"It was real frustrating. You never want to sit down in a tough game like this," he said.
USC took its first lead on a fastbreak layup by Dwight Lewis early in the second half. It was part of a 12-0 run that included a 3-pointer by Hackett and gave the Trojans a 43-37 lead with 15:19 remaining.
Collison's school-record consecutive free throw streak ended at 43 when he missed the first after being fouled at 14:37. About that time, the momentum swung back to UCLA.
The Bruins outscored USC 16-8 to regain the lead, 53-51, on Collison's jumper that beat the shot clock. Dragovic and Shipp hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the run and Shipp hit a tying free throw.
Gibson tied it again at 53 on a layup, then Shipp turned the ball over when he stepped out of bounds in the corner. The Bruins went ahead 58-53 on a jumper by Holiday and a 3-pointer by Dragovic.
Hackett's 3-pointer got the Trojans to 58-56 before Dragovic made three of four free throws for a 61-56 lead with 2:16 left.
Gibson's layup put the Trojans within three with 1½ minutes to go, but Lewis missed a jumper and Dragovic grabbed the defensive rebound. Shipp hit two free throws and Collison made 1-of-2 in the closing seconds.
"We still have a lot to learn," Gibson said.
The Bruins opened the game with a 19-8 run, helped by eight points from Collison. From there, the Trojans outscored UCLA 23-14 to end the half trailing 33-31. DeRozan had eight points and Hackett six in the spurt that allowed USC twice to get within one point but not take the lead.
Holiday scored UCLA's final five points of the half, the last eight minutes of which included an airball by Holiday and several misses by Collison, Shipp and Dragovic.