UCLA needs more than two stars
PHOENIX ó Two players canít win an NCAA title by themselves, even if theyíre Darren Collison and Kevin Love.
The slick junior point guard and gifted freshman center accounted for 40 of UCLAís 51 points in the Bruinsí 51-49 second-round squeaker over Texas A&M.
But it was an aberration, the two players say, and the wealth will be shared against Western Kentucky in the West region semifinals tonight.
iWe can spread it around,î Love said. iJosh (Shipp) will start knocking down shots. He has been shooting the ball all week. Lucís ankle is back to 100 percent. And Russell (Westbrook) has been shooting the ball well in practice.î
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is especially important to the Bruins, coach Ben Howland said at Wednesdayís news conference. The big forward missed two games with a sprained left ankle before returning against Texas A&M.
iWe know at this point, without Luc playing major minutes, it is going to be very rough for us to advance,î Howland said. iHe has been a three-year starter. He is an integral part of what we do at both ends of the floor. I expect him to play, hoping that he doesnít get in any kind of foul trouble, at least 30 minutes today.î
Mbah a Moute had two points, eight rebounds, and six turnovers in what he acknowledged was a rusty 32 minutes against the Aggies. He underwent an MRI as a precaution on Monday but said he was ready to go against the Hilltoppers.
iAs far as the pain, my ankle ó the pain is less,î Mbah a Moute said. iI donít feel much pain, and the swelling went down. If I have to give a percentage, I would say 90, 95 percent hopefully tomorrow.î
Shipp, meanwhile, is recovering from strep throat and trying to find his outside shot. In his last three games, Shipp went 5-for-21, 0-for-10 on 3-pointers. Westbrook hasnít fared much better, going 8-for-29, 2-for-8 on 3s, in the last three victories.
Still, the Bruins have won 12 in a row, even though five of their last eight have been by three points or less and another was in overtime.
iThis team has been through a lot of close games, not only late this season, but the last three years,î Howland said. iWeíve won more than we lost in close games. And I think thatís the sign of a good team and a good program.î
So itís safe to assume the Bruins (33-3) will not take anything for granted against No. 12 seed Western Kentucky (29-6).
iNo matter what the seedings are,î Collison said, iwe have to play against a team that will give it their best shot.î
The Hilltoppers, winners of eight in a row, advanced to Phoenix with a 101-99 overtime upset of Drake, followed by a 72-63 win against a San Diego team that had knocked off No. 4 seed Connecticut.
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