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January 25, 2008

UCLA guts out victory

EUGENE, Ore.(AP) Kevin Love was determined not to let the crowd get to him.

UCLA's 6-foot-10 freshman center knew that returning to his home state and playing against the school his father played for would be tough.

But Love kept his wits, and finished with 26 points and 18 rebounds to lead the eighth-ranked Bruins to an 80-75 victory over Oregon on Thursday night.

"Well, that felt good," said Love, whose rebound total set a record for a UCLA freshman.

The Ducks (12-7, 3-4 Pac-10) led by as many as seven points in the second half, but the Bruins (17-2, 5-1) kept coming back. After Bryce Taylor's 3-pointer put Oregon ahead 69-64 with 4:38 to play, Russell Westbrook answered with a 3-pointer for UCLA.

Maarty Leunen made two free throws for Oregon before UCLA's Nikola Dragovic hit a 3-pointer to pull within 71-70, and the Bruins retook the lead on a layup by Westbrook.

Darren Collison made two free throws, extending UCLA's lead to 74-71 with 1:04 left and the Ducks were unable to catch up.

Collison had a career-high 22 points for the Bruins, who were coming off a 72-63 home loss to Southern California. Love's double-double was his 10th of the season.

"What more can you ask for? He's not an average freshman," Collison said about Love. "He plays like a senior. He gutted it out."

Malik Hairston led the Ducks with 18 points, but he went to the locker room for about seven minutes in the second half with leg cramps before returning to the court. Leunen had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Last season, Oregon handed then-No. 1 UCLA its first loss of the season, 68-66 in Eugene.

Love jilted his home state for the storied tradition of UCLA, turning his back on the school his father, Stan Love, played for. The elder Love starred for the Ducks as an all-conference player in 1970 and '72.

The younger Love attended games at McArthur Court since second grade. If UCLA was visiting, he said he rooted for the Bruins while his father cheered for the Ducks.

At the Mac Court on Wednesday night, Love was booed and jeered unmercifully by the student section, known as the Pit Crew. One of the nicer signs displayed simply said: "Kevin Love Sellout."

"Crowds are going to try and get in players heads as much as possible and that's what they tried to do tonight," Love said. "We just came out with a win in a very tough place to play."

UCLA coach Ben Howland talked to Love about what to expect.

"This is probably one of the toughest environments in the country and they were especially going to be hard on him but he knew that coming in," Howland said. "I thought he handled it very well ... overall he was very poised."

The Bruins were hampered by injuries to starters Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata-Real, who both suffered concussions in the loss to the Trojans.

The Ducks went ahead 51-47 on a layup by Joevan Catron, who had not played since late December because of a foot injury.

Love was often matched up against the 6-9, 220-pound Leunen, a friend from years ago. Leunen's layup gave the Ducks a 58-51 lead midway through the second half.

After the game, Love and Leunen hugged and chatted. "Get those Trojans!" Love said as he left. Oregon hosts Southern California, which beat UCLA last weekend, on Saturday.

"This team is in a wilderness stage," Ducks coach Ernie Kent said. "They just have to figure out how to do some things. I'm frustrated by that, but they just have to keep grinding it out."

UCLA travels Saturday to Oregon State, which is winless in the Pac-10.

The game attracted a lot of attention in Oregon and beyond. Among those attending were former Oregon guard Aaron Brooks, who was with Houston Rockets teammate Tracy McGrady. Also there was former Trail Blazer Chris Dudley, and Stan Love.

The Rockets play at the Blazers on Friday night.



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