|Pac-10 title game is battle of big men between Love and Lopez|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 14 March 2008 22:40|
Love, the league's player and freshman of the year, gives up 2 inches in the post to the 7-foot Lopez and his twin brother Robin.
``Going against Kevin, he is always physical. Great at sealing his position under the basket. Great rebounder,'' Brook Lopez said.
The No. 3 Bruins extended their winning streak to nine games with a 57-54 victory over crosstown rival Southern California on Friday. The 11th-ranked Cardinal outlasted Washington State 75-68 in the other semifinal.
That set up Saturday's third meeting between the Bruins and the Cardinal, which lost both regular-season games to UCLA.
The top-seeded Bruins (30-3) want to add the tournament championship to the regular-season league title they clinched last week against the second-seeded Cardinal (26-6).
In that game, the Bruins benefited from a questionable call with 2 1/2 seconds remaining in regulation. Stanford's Lawrence Hill was called for fouling Darren Collison, who later said he was not fouled. Collison made two free throws to force overtime, and UCLA won its third consecutive league crown.
``This will probably be our stiffest challenge, no question about it, all year long,'' said Stanford's Trent Johnson, the Pac-10 coach of the year. ``We need to get off our feet and get some rebounds and make some open shots.''
Love is coming off a big game against the Trojans. He scored 11 points in a 15-2 run to open the second half and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his 20th double-double.
``It was kind of a grudge match out there against USC,'' he said. ``We were getting pretty emotional. It was a big win for us.''
Brook Lopez had 30 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots against Washington State. Hill added 14 points and Robin Lopez had nine points and eight rebounds.
Stanford has played in the tournament finals twice, beating Washington four years ago and losing to Arizona in 1989.
The Bruins are four-time finalists, winning in 2006 and 1987.
UCLA will play Saturday without Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who sprained his left ankle in the first half against USC.
X-rays were negative and Mbah a Moute was on crutches, not a welcome sight for the junior who backs up Love on the boards. He re-injured the same ankle that sidelined him for two games last month.
``We are very dependent on Luc. He has been a three-year starter,'' coach Ben Howland said. ``He has done so many little things. Only people who really understand basketball get all the little things that don't show up in the stat sheet.''
Winning the tournament title would solidify UCLA's bid for a No. 1 seed in next week's NCAA tournament. Stanford, USC and Washington State also are assured berths.
What's unclear is how many other Pac-10 teams will get bids when the 65-team field is announced Sunday.
``I think seven are going to get in,'' Howland said. ``No other league is as tough as this league this year. Arizona is going to get in at 8-10, which is a great example of why strength of schedule is so important.''
``I would be extremely disappointed if there weren't seven teams,'' he said. ``Our strength of schedule isn't anything like our seventh-place team's. My goodness, Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State. Are you kidding me?''