Freshman sensation leads UCLA to easy first-round win
=== Freshman sensation leads UCLA to easy first-round win ===
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) – Luc Mbah a Moute scored a career-high
17 points and UCLA gave Belmont a rude welcome to the NCAA Tournament
with an easy 78-44 victory in an Oakland bracket first-round game at Cox
Mbah a Moute, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, added eight rebounds to
help the second-seeded Bruins (28-6) cruise to their eighth straight win.
UCLA will face 10th-seeded Alabama, a 90-85 victor over Marquette earlier
in the day, in Saturday’s second round.
Belmont (20-11), the champions of the Atlantic Sun which was making
its first-ever appearance in the Big Dance, struggled mightily against
UCLA’s strong defense. Fifteenth-seeded Belmont shot just 29 percent from
the field and did not have a player finish in double-figure points. Justin
Hare led the team with eight points.
“I think we were just happy to be here and we understood how good UCLA was,”
said Hare. “We came in confident and thought we could compete with them, but
they just played a lot better than us.”
UCLA, in contrast, is in the tourney for the 40th time and won its 86th
The contest proved to be far less dramatic than events that took place
earlier at Cox Arena. A threat of suspicious activity caused the
evacuation of the building during the morning and delayed the start of
the Marquette-Alabama game for an hour and 10 minutes.
During a pre-game security check, two bomb-sniffing dogs were alarmed by
a vendor cart inside the stadium around three hours before the scheduled
tip of the first game. The building was immediately cleared before
authorities determined the arena to be completely safe.
Belmont actually hung tough with a cold-shooting UCLA through much of
the first half and had an 18-12 lead after Bubba Herndon tipped in Josh
Goodwin’s long-distance miss with 6:44 left in the opening period.
UCLA then reeled off 13 straight points, six coming from reserve
Darren Collison, before Goodwin knocked down a triple with 3:31 remaining in
the half to bring Belmont within 25-21.
However, UCLA ended the opening stanza with a 10-2 burst to take a
comfortable 12-point advantage into the locker room. A three-pointer from
Cedric Bozeman followed by Mbah a Moute’s layup and free throw in the
closing seconds accounted for the 35-23 lead.
Mbah a Moute finished the first half with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
“I thought that in the first 10 minutes we came out a little tight,” said UCLA
head coach Ben Howland. “In the last 30 minutes, we were terrific.”
Any comeback hopes for Belmont out of the locker room were quickly
squashed when UCLA opened the second stanza with a 10-2 run, capped by a
Mbah a Moute putback which extended the margin to 20, 45-25, with 15:31 to
Belmont mustered just one field goal over a near 8 1/2 minute stretch in
the second half as UCLA continued to further the gap. A 13-0 burst ending
with an Arron Afflalo layup gave UCLA a commanding 60-28 advantage with
under nine minutes left.
“What was tough for (Belmont) is that we generally don’t let up,” Afflalo
remarked. “Our defensive pressure started to take a toll, and we fought for
Collison and Ryan Hollins each had 10 points for UCLA, which finished with
a 45-27 rebounding advantage…Belmont has only been an NCAA member since
1997. The former NAIA powerhouse made its first major postseason appearance
in the 2004 NIT…UCLA trails only Kentucky and North Carolina for the most
wins in NCAA Tournament play…UCLA is a No. 2 seed for the first time
since being seeded second in the 1997 Midwest Region. The Bruins reached
the regional final that year…Country music star Vince Gill, a big
Belmont supporter and good friend of head coach Rick Byrd, was in attendance.