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Love powers UCLA past Miss. Valley St. in first round

Mar 21, 2008 - 5:07 AM
ANAHEIM, California (Ticker) -- Freshman Kevin Love's first taste of the NCAA Tournament was a pleasant one.

Love scored 18 of his 20 points in the opening half as top seed UCLA rolled to a 70-29 victory over No. 16 Mississippi Valley State in the first round of the West Regional on Thursday.

The Bruins (32-3) have won 11 games in a row overall as they look to return to the Final Four for the third straight season under coach Ben Howland.

"I was really pleased with our defense," Howland said. "We had 13 blocked shots. I was also pleased with the 19 percent they shot from the field, it showed we played really hard. I thought the players that came off the bench gave us some good minutes."

UCLA will face Texas A&M in the second round on Saturday for the right to advance to the "Sweet 16" next weekend.

As one of the top first-year players in the college ranks, Love led UCLA in points (17.1) and rebounds (10.6) en route to capturing Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year honors.

"It was a lot of fun. My teammates and coaches made it fun for me as well," Love said about his first tournament game. "We had mentioned a bunch of times that a 16 seed had never beaten a No. 1 seed and we didn't want be the first ones. We had to come out and jump on them as much as possible and I think we did that."

The Bruins didn't take the lower-seeded Delta Devils (17-16) lightly by jumping out to commanding 35-8 surge through the opening 15 1/2 minutes.

"We just come out and play hard no matter who we are playing and don't take anyone lightly. We just want to come out and play hard," UCLA forward Lorenzo Mata-Real said. "Our defense dictates what we do and we played great."

Love's 3-pointer with 1:45 left capped his impressive first half as UCLA shot 46 percent (15-of-32) from the field to create a 40-16 cushion at intermission.

"No mercy out there, that's all I can say," Love said. "No mercy, we didn't feel too bad for them."

Mississippi Valley State was never able to recover after the break, as their nine-game winning streak was halted.

Russell Westbrook and Mata-Real combined for 18 points for the Bruins, who held the Delta Devils to the lowest output in either the first or second round of the NCAAs.

Wisconsin held the previous mark with 32 in 1999.

Larry Cox led the Devils with eight points and seven boards.

"There is a tremendous difference in the levels of the two teams," Mississippi Valley State coach James Green said. "It's a situation we haven't been in and we didn't handle it as well as we could have."