Battle Of The Bruins Favor UCLA

March 16, 2006

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SAN DIEGO (AP) - There really was only room for one team nicknamed Bruins in the NCAA tournament. Sorry, Belmont, it wasn't you.

Freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had a career-high 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists and UCLA routed the small Nashville school 78-44 Thursday in a first-round NCAA tournament matchup of Bruins.

UCLA will play Alabama in NCAA second round action on Saturday at approx. 5:00 p.m. The game will be televised by CBS and broadcast on AM 570.

"We're disappointed, for sure," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "You don't want to ever get beat bad. UCLA was way too good for us."

Ryan Hollins added 10 points for No. 2 seed UCLA (28-6), which won its seventh straight after holding 15th-seeded Belmont to 21 second-half points and 22 percent field-goal shooting. Belmont (20-11) had averaged 81.8 points.

With big men Mbah a Moute and Hollins so effective, UCLA lessened its usual reliance on backcourt duo Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, who combined for 15 points.

UCLA's Jordan Farmar (1) drives towards the basket as Belmont's Brian Collins (10) defends. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Justin Hare, who came in averaging 15.9 points, Boomer Herndon and Andrew Preston had six points each for Belmont, which had its No. 1 fan, country singer Vince Gill, in the front row.

"I expected them to be really good," Hare said. "It really showed us how good they are."

UCLA coach Ben Howland earned his first NCAA tournament victory since taking over in Westwood three seasons ago. Last year, the Bruins lost in the first round to Texas Tech.

They advanced to the second round for the first time since 2002 and will play 10th-seeded Alabama on Saturday in the Oakland Regional.

"We're definitely focused on Saturday. There was no dumping water or things of that nature," Afflalo said about the postgame locker room scene. "We're on a six-game mission, one game at a time."

The victory was UCLA's 86th all-time in its 40th tournament appearance, trailing only Kentucky's 95 and North Carolina's 88. It was the school's biggest win since 2000, when the Bruins beat Maryland 105-70 in the second round.

Before things got ugly, Belmont didn't flinch in the early going of its first NCAA tournament appearance.

"They looked like they came to play," Farmar said.

The Bruins of Nashville raced out to their largest lead of the game, 18-12, while UCLA missed 10 of its first 15 shots.

"I kept saying, `We need to make our run,"' Belmont guard Brian Collins said. "We just couldn't make a shot. We made silly passes and kept on throwing it away."

Farmar blamed nerves for UCLA's slow start.

"We're really young. It's the first or second time for most of us, it's very exciting," he said. "We were just a little jittery to begin the game."

The game was tied four times before UCLA recovered with a 23-5 run - including 13 in a row - to end the half ahead 35-23. Mbah a Moute scored seven points and Darren Collison added six.

"We just needed to execute," Afflalo said. "We were getting good shots. We were just missing them. What changed was on the defensive end."

Mbah a Moute, a native of Cameroon, has been playing basketball for a scant five years.

"I was just trying to get my team together and execute," he said. "I got some open opportunities, my teammates were finding me and I kept on rolling."

Belmont committed a slew of its 10 turnovers during UCLA's spurt, including two consecutive by Andy Wicke that led to baskets by Collison. Its shooting also dipped to 35 percent from the floor by halftime.

"They were too good in the open floor and hurt us on the offensive boards," Byrd said.

UCLA's offensive tear continued into the second half, when the Bruins outscored Belmont 10-2 and extended their lead to 45-25.

They then ran off 13 straight points for a 60-28 lead as Belmont came up empty on possession after possession. Hare's struggles epitomized how bad things got - he tossed up an airball, then missed two free throws.

"We got a lot of easy opportunities by forcing turnovers and making them take difficult shots," Farmar said.

UCLA has held seven straight opponents to 60 points or less. Belmont rarely got a second shot on any possession, and even when it did, UCLA defenders had their arms in the air disrupting shots.

The huge lead allowed Howland to clear his bench with about eight minutes remaining. Even then, Belmont couldn't hang with the West Coast Bruins' reserves.

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