Bruins Blow Out Bruins, 78-43

The UCLA Bruins trailed by 6 late in the first half, then went on a 50-12 run spurred, of course, by its defense, and two inspiring freshmen, Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, to get past the first round of the NCAA tournament...

The UCLA Bruins upped their record to 28-6 with a 78-43 victory over the Belmont Bruins (20-11) in San Diego in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bruins started out the game by seemingly reverting to the form they displayed in the games in which the two Oregon schools played in Los Angeles just 3 weeks ago: Too many unforced turnovers and too many forced 3-point attempts. Jordan Farmar was the usual suspect, turning it over twice in the first 8 minutes and missing on all his 3s, but the Bruins in general were just awful on offense as they managed to score just 10 points in the first 12:17 of the first half. That they trailed just 16-10 was a credit to their defense: The Bruins were doing a very good job of getting in the face of Belmont's perimeter shooters, and Ryan Hollins and Lorenzo Mata performed some solid work bodying up to Boomer Herndon and Andrew Preston inside, although they did give up good position and some easy looks from the Belmont post players (Herndon got 6 points and Preston 4 during those opening 12 minutes).

But after the teams traded baskets coming out of the 7:43 TV timeout, the roof fell in on Belmont. UCLA suddenly became a very patient team, looking to penetrate and dish against the pressure man d of Belmont, mostly behind the scintillating play of freshmen Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah A Moute. The Bruins went on a 13-0 run as their defense turned up a notch and went into full strangle mold. With the score 27-23 UCLA, the Bruins (the ones from Los Angeles) went on an 8-0 run and finished the half up 35-23. Belmont had managed just 7 points in the final 7:43 of the half while the Bruins scored 25 points during the same span. Mbah A Moute led the way with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals and Collison had 6 points and 2 assists as both freshmen played great defense as well, keying the outstanding effort of their teammates on d.

UCLA came out and scored the first 4 points of the second half and quickly built its lead to 45-25 by the first TV timeout as the Bruins continued to patiently feed the post and dribble penetrate against the overplay Belmont defense. At that point, CBS cut away from the game and I don't have any comment for about 2 minutes of the game during which neither team scored and apparently both teams turned the ball over more than once. When CBS returned to the action, the Bruins were continuing their excellent defensive pressure on Belmont, which simply couldn't get any open looks. UCLA also dominated the glass throughout the game.

Farmar made some superior passes off inbounds plays and dribble penetration and did a much better job of taking care of the ball in the second half. The Bruins fed off Farmar's poise and began getting transition baskets and wide open looks from 3. But it was the UCLA defense which dictated the flow of this game as it has all season long, with Arron Afflalo and Cedric Bozeman standing out throughout the game as they completely controlled Belmont's normally deadly outside shooting. By the time of the second to last TV timeout at the 7:02 mark, UCLA was up 62-30 and the game was over. The Bruins from L.A. had outscored the Bruins from Nashville 50-12 over a span of barely more than 20 minutes. UCLA essentially dedicated the rest of the game to eating up as much clock as possible on offense, with Ryan Wright, Janou Rubin and Michael Fey seeing extended action in garbage time and all profiting from the experience.

Mbah A Moute finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, as well as contributing stellar defense in what might have been the best game of his young career. Ryan Hollins contributed 10 points, 4 rebounds and a block, and Collison, though he was bit by the turnover bug in the second half, added 10 points, 2 assists and 3 steals of his own as he was also terrific on the defensive end. The same can be said for Afflalo (7 points, 7 rebounds) and Bozeman (9 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists). Jordan Farmar finished with 8 points, 5 assists and 3 steals against 3 turnovers. Ryan Wright got 6 points and 7 rebounds down the stretch and Mike Roll and Janou Rubin each hit a 3 during garbage time; Roll seemed off his game today. Mata finished with 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 1 block and is clearly capable of contributing valuable minutes in crunch time, and his play could be one of the keys for UCLA in this tournament. Alfred Aboya contributed 1 point and 3 rebounds and some good defense. Fey added a basket and an assist toward the end of the game.

For Belmont, offensive star Justin Hare was limited to 1 3-pointer and 8 points by Afflalo's superb d (of course, the UCLA Bruins play defense as a T-E-A-M and as a team should get credit for all the fine defense displayed in this game). Josh Goodwin managed 7 points with Bozeman shading him for much of the game. Herndon, who averages over 14 points per game, failed to score in the second half and wound up with 6 points, as did Preston. Brian Collins managed 7 points against Farmar and Collison.

After the slow start, UCLA completely dominated this game with its great defensive pressure and patient offense. Belmont hit just 28.8% of its shots (21.1% from 3) while UCLA made 52.6% of its FGs and shot an outstanding 82.4% from the free throw line. UCLA outrebounded Belmont 42-23. If the Bruins display the same great defense and patient offense against Alabama and hit the boards with equal abandon, they should advance to the Sweet 16 after Saturday. Alabama has size and athleticism and a terrific point guard in Ron Steele, but they lack depth and some of their shooters aren't very good ballhandlers and can be pressured into misses and mistakes. The Bruins just need to bring their "A" game and they should be able to handle the Crimson Tide.

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