Love Leads Bruins to 80-75 Win

Eugene -- It was like old times for Kevin Love when he strolled onto the floor at McArthur Court. After all he first started coming to this place when he was still in grammar school and he also saw a fair amount of action in the OSAA State Championships. On Thursday night it was against the Oregon Ducks (12-6, 3-3) and when he left the court his UCLA Bruins (16-2, 4-1) were an 80-75 winner.

(PHOTO) Maarty Leunen battles UCLA's Kevin Love on Thursday night in Eugene. (Photo by Dan Lindahl)

"It's college basketball and it was a very gratifying win," Love said after his 26 point, 18 rebound performance. "Plus I've played against a lot of the players before."

Kevin Love, whose father Stan is a legendary Oregon Duck of the late 60s and 70s, was matched up with a family friend all night – Maarty Leunen. The two battled it out all night in a game that was big not only because it was a home coming, but also because it gave UCLA some cushion to a team that has given them trouble in the past.

For a good deal of the game, the Ducks held serve against the mighty Bruins, but when Malik Hairston left the game with leg cramps at about 12 minutes in the contest, the task for Oregon became immense. Leunen, finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds, so that meant that both he and Love finished with a double-double performance in points and rebounds. Hairston was off to a great game by scoring 18 points but without him Oregon was faced with a smaller line up to deal with Love.

Oregon trailed at halftime 40-36 but in the second half took the lead by as much as seven at 58-51 with 10:55 left in the game. For the contest Oregon shot 48.3 percent from the field on 28-of-58 shooting including 7-for-19 in 3-pointers. UCLA shot 49.1 percent for the game on 26-of-53 and 9-for-21 in 3's.

"Malik (Hairston) leaving the ball game was huge," admitted Oregon Head Coach Ernie Kent. "He played an unbelievable game. It was unfortunate that he had to sit for 11 minutes."

Joevan Catron, back after missing the last six games, was very tough underneath and actually backed Love off his defensive position to score 10 points. Bryce Taylor contributed 16 while Tajuan Porter had 13.

The two teams match up well during the game but in his post-game interviews Kent attributed the deficit Oregon would ultimately face to "five or six lay ups missed" and a couple of rotations that allowed Love room to roam.

"The game was very reminiscent of (the) Washington State (game)," observed Kent. "We played a very good basketball, our scheme was sound, and they struggled to guard our offense. But this team always seems to have six or seven plays where the breakdown is caused by us, and it makes the difference in the game."

What the game really came down to though was how Love was able to move to any position under the basket that he wanted and it took Oregon's best effort to keep him at 26 points. One stat that really sticks out is the eight offensive rebounds the big man from Lake Oswego ended up with. Despite the best efforts of Leunen, Hairston and Catron, Love was able to do as he pleased, particularly in crunch time during the last two minutes.

"He's just a load down there; he crashes the boards like crazy," said Bryce Taylor of keeping Love off the offensive boards.

The Oregon crowd was revved up and ready to let Love know just what they thought of him for choosing UCLA and not Oregon. Love kept his composure and when the Bruins needed him the most, he responded.

"All of my family and friends were here, and all the people who hate me for not going to Oregon were here," said Love of the game. "It was a pretty good atmosphere."

Official Box Score

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