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Mbah a Moute's 3-pointer lifts UCLA over Michigan State

Nov 21, 2007 - 7:24 AM KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) -- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute picked a great time to show off his improved outside touch.

Mbah a Moute hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds remaining as top-ranked UCLA avoided its first setback of the season with a 68-63 victory over No. 11 Michigan State in the championship game of the CBE Classic on Tuesday.

The big shot by the junior forward helped the Bruins (5-0) overcome a miserable early effort where they failed to score for the first 5 1/2 minutes of the contest, missing their first nine shots.

"Luc's shot was the shot of the night," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "They went zone there in the possession with the game tied. We were very patient and did a good job of working it around. When a team zones, you are usually going to give up an open outside shot and that was a huge shot for us.

"He's worked very hard on his jump shot in the offseason and it really paid off tonight for us."

Mbah a Moute, who tied the score over a minute earlier when he dunked home a missed layup attempt by Alfred Aboya, finished with eight points.

"I definitely felt it was in when I shot it," said Mbah a Moute, who made 10-of-30 3-pointers last season. "I was ready. I feel really confident in my shot right now."

Freshman sensation Kevin Love once again starred, collecting 21 points and 11 rebounds en route to being named the MVP of the tournament.

Shooting just 24.1 percent (7-of-29) in the first half, UCLA found itself trailing, 36-25, at the half. That deficit remained at double digits when Drew Neitzel hit a layup to make it 40-30 in the open moments of the second half.

However, the Bruins chipped away by turning up the pressure on the defensive end. They forced the Spartans into 18 turnovers in the contest, turning them into 24 points.

UCLA tied the score at 58-58 on a dunk by Russell Westbrook with 4:41 remaining. Marquise Gray answered back with a dunk for Michigan State and Neitzel knocked down his second 3-pointer for a 63-58 edge with 2:18.

Mature beyond his years, Love responded with a three-point play and Mbah a Moute knotted the game once again when Aboya failed to convert after picking up a steal.

Drew Naymick and Idong Ibok both fouled out trying to guard Love, while Goran Suton picked up four fouls.

"I knew I was drawing fouls," said Love, who had eight offensive boards. "My teammates were getting me in the right position to score. I missed a few easy chip shots at the beginning of the game, but I got a few back in the second half. I was just trying to draw fouls to get into a 1-and-1. If we're going to be a great team, I need to be able to bang down low."

"We had every big guy in America in foul trouble," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "It was disappointing to me the way it was called inside to be honest with you. It was one of my disappointing losses. We were out of synch the whole game.

After Neitzel was off the mark on the other end, the Bruins countered the Spartans' change to zone by finding the 6-8 Mbah a Moute on the right wing. Neitzel airballed a forced 3-point attempt and Josh Shipp converted two free throws to help seal the win.

Shipp had 18 points for UCLA, which shot only 19-of-31 (61.3 percent) from the stripe.

Not in the starting lineup due to issues with the flu, Neitzel scored 13 points for Michigan State (3-1), which fell short despite shooting 52.3 percent (23-of-44) from the field.

"They are very, very good," Howland said of the Spartans. "There is not question in my mind that they are going to go deep in the NCAA Tournament. They are going to win a lot of games. That was a good team that we were able to come back on."