- Tuesday, November 21 2006 -
Maui Classic Invitational (at Lahaina, HI)
Kentucky - 68 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 20th by AP and 22nd by ESPN/USA Today]
UCLA - 73 (Head Coach: Ben Howland) - [Ranked 5th by AP and 5th by ESPN/USA Today]
|Luc Richard Mbah A Moute||31||8||12||0||1||2||5||2||3||5||3||1||1||0||2||18|
Halftime Score: UCLA 38, Kentucky 30
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|DePaul 87 - 81|||||Memphis 63 - 80|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Maui Blues: UCLA Nips Cats Late
LAHAINA, Hawaii - The organizers of the EA Sports Maui Invitational set up their tournament hoping for a classic showdown between college basketball titans UCLA and Kentucky.
They got what the wanted and then some.
UCLA made all the critical defensive stops over the final five minutes and nipped UK 73-68 in front of a packed Lahaina Civic Center. It was another memorable showdown between the program with the most all-time victories and the one with the most titles, the eighth in 10 meetings that was decided by seven points or less.
"I was sick to my stomach all day," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "They're so tough. We were fortunate to go out on top. It easily could have been us with the 'L'."
For a while though it didn't the expected duel would be fit for primetime, let alone ESPN Classic. The Bruins jumped out to a 26-9 first half lead and then watched UK storm from behind on the strength of a fearless freshmen class.
Led by Derrick Jasper's energy and defensive effort, UK (3-1) began slicing the UCLA lead during a stretch when the UK freshmen scored 21 consecutive points for the Cats. Until Joe Crawford buried a three-pointer from the top of the key at the first half buzzer to close the gap to 38-30, the freshmen had scored all but two of the Cats' first half points.
"I was very happy with them," UK coach Tubby Smith said of the freshmen. "They're very tough. They did stem the tide and get us back in the game with their energy and ability to make shots."
Using the edge a smaller lineup gave them, UK battled through nearly every UCLA run, finally taking its first lead at 50-48 with 10:22 remaining and again with 6:21 left, but UCLA took the lead for good at 61-59 on a Lorenzo Mata lay-in with 4:58 remaining. Mata added two free throws on the next possession, a shocking development given he missed the first seven he took this season.
Trailing 67-65 with just over two minutes remaining, the turnover bug again bit the Cats. Jasper had his attempt at an entry pass picked off by Josh Shipp, although UK stopped the Bruins on the other end to give itself one more chance with under a minute remaining. After a jump ball on another deflected UK pass, Ramel Bradley worked himself free at the top of the key but dropped a perfectly placed pass and watched as Darren Collison scooped it up and fed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for a dunk on the break to push the UCLA lead to 69-65 with 26 seconds on the clock.
"I just turned it over," a sullen Bradley said.
Bradley then missed a forced three from the wing and Randolph Morris drew front rim with a short jumper that led to the game-sealing dunk by Arron Afflalo on another transition break. It was a fitting end given UK allowed 21 points off turnovers, 18 fast break points and 50 points in the paint to the Bruins.
"They were getting so many lay-ups," Smith said. "A lot of our turnovers led to easy transition baskets. We couldn't get back to stop the easy lay-ups."
Still, it was an encouraging effort in that UK once again showed significant moxie in trying circumstances.
"I thought we gave a great effort to get back in the game after being down so much," Smith said. "UCLA really executed down the stretch and made plays and shots. We had our chances to pull the game out, it just didn't happen."
Crawford led the Cats with 16 points and five assists, while Jasper had a huge game with 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Mbah a Moute led UCLA with 18 points and Mata added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
UK faces Memphis in the third place game at 11:30 a.m. Hawaiian time (4:30 eastern) on Wednesday.
Bobby Perry defends
Randolph Morris posts up