Mbah a Moute leads second-half defensive effort for BruinsNov 16, 2006 - 6:20 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute showed that UCLA should once again be considered among the nation's title contenders.
Mbah a Moute scored 13 of his 24 points in the opening 20 minutes and the sixth-ranked Bruins used a big second half to post an 82-69 victory over Brigham Young in the season opener for both teams.
An unlikely national runner-up last season because of its tendency to focus more on defense than offense like its championship predecessors, UCLA showed it can succeed with the same philosophy once again.
Finding themselves trailing, 39-36, at the half after the Cougars shot 67 percent (14-of-21), the Bruins tightened their belts in the second half by limiting clean looks.
"There is no doubt in my mind that BYU will be an NCAA Tournament team," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "They played a near-perfect first half. They were 8-for-9 from the (arc). They shot 57 percent for the game and still we were able to win.
"It wasn't real bright of me to schedule a team like BYU this early in the year."
With BYU managing just one field goal in the opening 4 1/2 minutes after intermission, UCLA went on a 10-0 run to pull ahead for good. Mbah a Moute had a dunk and three free throws during the spurt.
"We did a much better job defensively in the second half, but we also did a good job of attacking the basket, getting to the line 30 times, winning on the boards, particularly on the offensive side," Howland said.
The Cougars managed to close within 59-58 on a layup by Jimmy Balderson with 8:51 remaining, but Josh Shipp scored his team's next five points and Alfred Aboya added two layups for a 68-62 edge with 5:51 left.
The reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Mbah a Moute added one of his two blocks on a 3-point attempt by Rashaun Burgess, leading to a fast-break dunk by Darren Collison with 2:11 remaining and a 71-62 advantage.
"I am always looking to make a play," Mbah a Moute said. "I was pretty close to him and just went up and blocked it."
Collison finished with 16 points and a career-high 10 assists and Shipp scored 13 for UCLA, which finished with 35 points off 23 turnovers by BYU.
The sophomore had a great start in filling in for Jordan Farmar, last season's starter who left after his second season in Westwood and was picked in the first round of the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Farmar, who was in attendance, witnessed a near-perfect performance by the 6-0 speedster, committing just one turnover and shooting 2-of-4 on 3-pointers.
"Darren's line of 10 assists and one turnover, we kept running that high pick and he kept making good decisions," Howland said. "It was tough because we played him 38 minutes. It was tough to get our freshmen in there because the game was close most of the way."
Despite the high number of minutes, Collison felt in control down the stretch.
"That was pretty tiring. But I felt like I controlled the game in the last five minutes, which is what a leader is supposed to do," he said. "I am surrounded by a lot of good players and they make my job easier."
Keena Young was the lone player in double figures with 16 points for the Cougars, who dropped to 11-11 all-time against the Bruins.
Prior to Wednesday, BYU had been the only team to have a winning record against UCLA in 20-plus career meetings.
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