UCLA Wins its First-Round Bye

The #1-seeded Bruins set some records and got some rest in the equivalent of a bye when it cruised by Mississippi Valley State, 70-29, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday...

UCLA beat Mississippi Valley State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 70-29.

Let's get some of the records and noteworthy stuff out of the way:

-- The Bruins' 13 blocked shots were the most ever for a first or second round NCAA Tournament game. It was one shy of the all-time tourney record, set by Kentucky in a Regional Semi-Final in 1998, against UCLA, in fact.

-- Holding MSVU to 29 points equaled the fifth-lowest in NCAA Tournament history, and was the lowest total in the shot clock era, which began in 1985.

-- It marked the lowest point total in NCAA history since Baylor scored 29 in 1946.

-- MVSU's 19.7% field goal percentage was the fifth lowest in Tournament history, and the lowest since 1950 when North Carolina State shot 19.5%.

Other than that, the game didn't really mean that much. Just about any team seeded better than 11 could have beaten MVSU by 30.

You have to look at UCLA drawing MVSU as a great regular season rewarded, however. UCLA earned the right to be able to play MVSU in the tourney's first round.

As opposed to USC or Arizona, who earned only a first-round exit. Thank God for Stanford and Washington State holding up the honor of the Pac-10 along with the Bruins Thursday.

The other thing UCLA earned Thursday was some rest. Darren Collison's 23 minutes was the least he played in a game all season, and Russell Westbrook's 26 and Kevin Love's 21 were the least for them, excluding a couple of games they were in foul trouble.

So, really, it was the equivalent of UCLA having a bye until Saturday. They would have been more fatigued by a typical Ben Howland practice than playing MVSU.

We don't want to disparage MVSU too much, since they were a very classy team in defeat, and are Bruin lovers. A player said UCLA was his favorite team remaining in the tournament. Another, during the game, told Howland he was pulling for the Bruins the rest of the way.

In terms of take-aways, though, really all you can say is that the rest of the team got just about the same amount of rest as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

You could probably give James Keefe credit again for again providing some strong minutes while Mbah a Moute sat on the bench with his sprained ankle. Keefe played great defense, rebounded (finished with 7), had four blocked shots, hit a jumper just inside the three-point line and a thunderous dunk on a break.

It's a bit frustrating to think where Keefe would be if he had been given more playing time early on in the season when he first came back from his shoulder injury.

Let's see, what other points could be taken from the game?

Alfred Aboya probably set a record – for going the longest in a game without committing a foul. He picked up his first foul with 6 minutes left in the first half.

Lorenzo Mata-Real made two free throws in a row, hitting mostly net with both.

Love was, for most of the game, out-scoring the entire MVSU team. Love was ahead 20-19 with close to 13 minutes left to play when Howland took him out of the game, and MVSU had their chance to make their run. With Love on the bench, MVSU went on a 10-0 run against Love and won 29-20.

The biggest drama of the night was a ball getting stuck in the back of the backboard. The refs, first, stood there dumbfounded, with no idea of how to poke the ball out – with the ball boy's broomstick a yard away. So the refs, in all of their brilliance, waited for a another ball to be brought out but then couldn't knock the ball loose. Kevin Love, ever the showman, took over and did it on his second try. That might have gotten the biggest cheer of the night.

It was perhaps the earliest that Mutstafa Abdul-Hamid came into any game this season, entering the game at 11:30.

The UCLA team of Abdul-Hamid, Chace Stanback, Nikola Dragovic, Alfred Aboya and DeAundre Robinson beat MVSU, 9-4.

Some highly critical UCLA fans on the message boards weren't happy with the win (honestly). Heck, you can always find something wrong with a victory. In this one, UCLA was probably a bit sloppy and had too many turnovers (12) and, because of that, didn't capitalize on a number of fast-break opportunities. UCLA was getting out-rebounded for a while in the first half, mostly because of MVSU taking long shots that got long bounces (the Bruins finished with a whopping 50 boards). You could also possibly say that UCLA's defense wasn't necessarily as stifling as all the stats suggest – that MVSU is a pretty poor shooting team that missed some open looks throughout the game. Josh Shipp shot 2 for 7, and 0 for 4 from three, and it seems that his 30% shooting from beyond the arc isn't really a slump but a fact of life. Collison did his first-half disappearing act, not scoring in the first 20 minutes and committing two turnovers.

Okay, all the critics happy?

After this bye, the Tournament starts for the Bruins Saturday against Texas A&M.

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