Monday, February 27, 2006

Luc's Double Trouble for Ducks, Bruins Sweep

By Bruin Basketball Report

On a day when UCLA seniors took their final bows at Pauley Pavilion, it was a freshman who took center stage.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Bruins to a 70-53 victory over the Oregon Ducks on Senior Day at Pauley Pavilion.

Mbah a Moute, the favorite for the Pac-10 conference freshman of the year award, recorded his seventh double-double of the season.

The crowd was still buzzing after an emotional ceremony in which students, alumni, and fans said thanks to the four Bruin seniors; Cedric Bozeman, Ryan Hollins, Michael Fey, and Janou Rubin.

UCLA (22-6, 12-4) started all four seniors in the game along with sophomore Jordan Farmar. The game was tied 4-4 when coach Ben Howland substituted for Michael Fey and Janou Rubin, but not before Fey tipped in the first basket of the game off a rebound.

However for the second game in a row, UCLA needed a furious second half offensive display to overcome a sluggish first half of a game.

The Bruins trailed the Ducks at halftime 28-23 as they struggled again with scoring against an opponent’s zone defense.

UCLA shot 43% from the floor in the first half but committed nine turnovers from which the Ducks converted into 13 points.

Against Oregon’s match-up zone, the Bruins were hesitant to attack and penetrate the defense and instead passed the ball around the perimeter which resulted in either a turnover or forced shot attempt to beat the expiring shot clock.

To start the second half, the Bruins started attacking the zone more effectively.

First, Cedric Bozeman passed the ball into Ryan Hollins right below the free throw line, and Hollins converted on a soft 12-foot jumper.

Then after a time-out, Howland designed a play for freshman Michael Roll to get the ball in the left corner - after a ball reversal and pick down low by Alfred Aboya – Roll found himself open for a three-pointer to tie the score 30-30.

A minute later, Roll got free again on the opposite side for a shot to put the Bruins ahead 33-30 and forcing the Ducks to call off the zone and change to a man-to-man defense for the rest of the game.

"Roll hit two big threes that hurt us," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.

After shooting 75% in a second-half rally against the Oregon St. Beavers on Thursday, UCLA shot 62.5% in the second half against the Ducks and scoring 47 points after only 23 in the first half.

Sophomore guard Arron Afflalo also contributed to the Bruin’s second-half resurgence. After not scoring in the first half, he scored all his 14 points in the second half on 5-8 shooting.

Afflalo also did another stellar defensive job on Oregon’s leading scorer Malik Hairston. Hairston was held to 3-13 shooting for only 6 points, almost 9 points below his season average.

Farmar had 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. The sophomore leader felt the same way at halftime about his team's performance as he did during the Oregon St. game on Thursday.

"In the first half I don't think we were being as aggressive," Farmar said. "But in the second half, we were more aggressive and got stops on defense, so they couldn't set that up. We got a lot of stuff in transition, and that helped us a lot. It all starts with our defense and our intensity."

Oregon’s Aaron Brooks scored a team-high 19 points to help pace the Ducks, but at the end it was too much Bruin offense and defense. UCLA held Oregon to only 29% field goal shooting in the second half.

"It was a tale of two halves.” Kent said, “We played a fantastic first half that was some of the best defense we have played, but we didn't have the legs in the second half and didn't match their intensity. I think we were worn down a little bit."

After committing nine turnovers in the first half, the Bruins took better care of the ball in the second half committing only two errors.

UCLA out-rebounded Oregon 31-26; and after their torrid second half shooting the Bruins finished at 53% from the field. The team also shot 16-18 from the free throw line for 88.9%.

Howland paid further homage to his out-going seniors in the game when he substituted them all in with less than two minutes remaining in the game, and then having them come out again but this time to the roar of appreciation from the home crowd at Pauley Pavilion.

Fittingly, Bozeman was the last senior Bruin to leave the game after he scored the last points for the team on free throws. Bozeman scored 8 points on 6-6 free throws.

In his pre-game farewell statement to the crowd, Bozeman said he wanted to be remembered at UCLA for his “unselfish play” and as someone “who played to make his teammates better.”

Ryan Hollins scored 7 points, grabbed 2 rebounds, and blocked 2 shots in his final game at Pauley.

“It hasn’t hit me yet that this is my last game here.” Hollins said. “So many things happening today I’ll probably think about it after today.”

With the sweep of Oregon, UCLA has sole possession of first place in the Pac-10. The Cal Bears lost to Washington in Seattle, 73-62.

The Bruins now travel to the Bay area next week to settle the Pac-10 conference title. On Thursday they play Cal in Berkeley and then play their final conference game against Stanford on Saturday.

"That's the focus now. We're the two teams (UCLA and Cal) atop the Pac-10 right now, so it's definitely going to be a pivotal game for us," UCLA's Aaron Afflalo said. "A few days of tough practices are really going to benefit us."

Howland said the team would rest up tomorrow before two intense practices on Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling up north for the season ending series.



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