March 20, 2008
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Getting the ball stuck behind the backboard merely delayed the inevitable for Mississippi Valley State.
Freshman Kevin Love scored 20 points and dislodged the trapped ball as top-seeded UCLA cruised to a 70-29 victory against the overmatched Delta Devils in the NCAA tournament on Thursday night.
"No mercy out there," Love said. "We didn't feel too bad for them."
Seeking a third consecutive Final Four berth, the Bruins (32-3) advanced to a second-round West Region game against No. 9 Texas A&M (25-10), a 67-62 winner over BYU.
UCLA's 11th consecutive victory was on a par with its other opening-round blowouts over the years, most recently identical 34-point wins over Belmont in 2006 and Charleston Southern in 1997.
"We had to come out and jump on them as much as possible," Love said. "We did a great job on the defensive end. It was a lot of fun."
Mississippi Valley State scored the fewest points in the tournament since 1946, when Baylor had 29 in a loss to Oklahoma State. The Delta Devils also set two dubious first-round records. They had the fewest points in a game, breaking the mark of 32 by Wisconsin against Missouri State in 1999. Their 19.7 percent was the lowest field-goal shooting rate, worse than North Carolina A&T's 27.1 percent against Princeton in 1983.
"Let's don't concentrate on that," coach James Green said.
Larry Cox Jr. had eight points and seven rebounds to lead the Delta Devils, who managed just 26 points against Washington State of the Pac-10 in November.
The Delta Devils (17-16) had their nine-game winning streak snapped in the first NCAA appearance since 1996 for the 3,767-student school from Itta Bena, Miss., best known as the alma mater of NFL career receiving leader Jerry Rice.
"What you saw was no indication of what went on with our guys during our conference," Green said. "We don't want our guys to feel like this was their season. It was a situation we hadn't been in and we didn't respond. I still love my guys."
The Delta Devils made just five baskets in the second half.
"The defensive pressure wasn't that bad," guard Stanford Speech said. "It was the banging and bumping around. We don't see that in our conference. Those guys are great. They know how to play. If we'd have played our best game, we'd still have lost by 10 or 15."
It wasn't a fair fight from the opening tip. The bigger Bruins raced to a 12-4 lead in the first five minutes, leaving no doubt that No. 1 seeds would improve to 94-0 against 16th seeds.
Then the rout was on. Cox provided the Delta Devils' only highlights--and points--on a post move over Love and a dunk in UCLA's 23-4 scoring spree that extended its lead to 35-8.
Love scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, and also rested during some of the spurt. His backup Lorenzo Mata-Real got UCLA fans roaring with consecutive rim-rattling dunks. Love's third 3-point closed out the half with the Bruins ahead 40-16.
Love strained his lower back in the Pac-10 tournament and said he had some spasms while standing, but he played through them.
"It feels like we coached and played in the NBA for a game," Green said.
The Delta Devils shot 22 percent (8-of-36) in the half--an opponent season low against the Bruins. They were nearly even with UCLA in offensive rebounds, but got clobbered 19-6 on the defensive glass, and missed all nine of their 3-point attempts.
The game's only suspense occurred in the opening minutes of the second half when the ball got stuck behind the backboard. Referee Bryan Kersey tried a few times to dislodge it using another ball and got booed when it didn't budge.
"That's a difficult play, but we worked on that," Green joked. "Our whole plan was to delay the game. I was hoping they would be a little bit distracted."
Hardly. The 6-foot-10 Love walked over and tried it, needing three tosses to knock the ball loose. He shook hands with Kersey, the crowd cheered and Love walked away smiling.
"He told me afterward I showed him up," Love said.
Love's trademark outlet pass was on display, too. He hit Westbrook for a neat layup, James Keefe dunked off a give-and-go, Darren Collison sank a 3-pointer as the Bruins scored 13 unanswered points for a 53-19 lead.
Love just missed his 21st double-double with nine rebounds, helping the Bruins grab a season-high 52 rebounds to 34 for the Delta Devils.
Keefe started for the Bruins in place of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who sprained his left ankle in last week's Pac-10 tournament. Mbah a Moute warmed up and was available, but clearly there was no need to use him.
"I thought about it and I felt comfortable we would be able to get this one without him," said coach Ben Howland, adding that Mbah a Moute would start Saturday.