54 - 57 Final
  for this game

Love, second-half surge lead UCLA to Pac-10 title game

Mar 15, 2008 - 5:40 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer.

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- UCLA upped its chances for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, but were dealt a potentially serious blow in the process.

Freshman Kevin Love finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds and led a second-half surge as the second-ranked Bruins defeated Southern California, 57-54, in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament on Friday.

This was the third meeting between the cross-town rivals, but their first in the league tournament.

"It was great atmosphere tonight, we had really heck of a crowd," Bruins coach Ben Howland said.

Love had 13 points after the half, including 11 in a row during a four-minute stretch. Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison each added 13 points for top-seeded UCLA, which will face the winner of Stanford-Washington State in Saturday's championship game.

"I just knew if we kept the run going we'd have a good chance to win and that's what end up happening," Love said.

The Bruins (30-3) may have to do it without the services of starting forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who suffered a sprained left ankle late in the first half.

Mbah a Moute was helped off the floor with 6:10 left before halftime after missing a layup and coming down on the foot of USC freshman forward Davon Jefferson. He did not return to the court, but received good news when X-rays on the ankle came back negative.

Howland said Mbah a Moute will miss Saturday's contest, but is hoping to have him back for the NCAA Tournament.

"It's the same ankle he sprained against Arizona," Howland said. "He's going to do everything he can to get ready for one of the games we'll play next week."

The Trojans (21-11) led for most of the opening half and took a 34-28 lead into the break behind the play of Jefferson, who had all 12 of his points in the opening 20 minutes.

"Whenever we get down, we have a never quit attitude," said Bruins forward Josh Shipp, who scored six points.

Love got the Bruins back on track, fueling a 15-2 run out of the half to give his squad a 43-36 advantage. The Pac-10 Player of the Year converted on back-to-back three-point play opportunities under the basket before following that up with a 3-pointer from the wing.

USC got within 55-54 with 31 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Daniel Hackett, but O.J. Mayo missed a game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds on the clock.

"I thought I made it once it left my hand," Mayo said.

Mayo had 15 points to pace the Trojans, who lost in last season's championship to Oregon.

"I'm proud of our guys' effort," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "It's one we can build on going forward."