|Back from ankle injury, Mbah a Moute helps lead Bruins to Final Four|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 30 March 2008 06:55|
The Bruins, who claimed the West Region championship with a 76-57 win Saturday night over Xavier, lost to Florida in each of the last two Final Fours - in the final in 2006 and in the semifinals last year.
``Obviously, the last two times we've been there, we were not pleased with the outcome,'' Mbah a Moute said. ``Hopefully this time we are going to advance and have a different outcome.''
A healthy Mbah a Moute - his left ankle is feeling much better - could help make a big difference, even though his contribution often is lost in the commotion surrounding freshman Kevin Love and others.
``The key guy for us is Luc,'' said UCLA point guard Darren Collison. ``When he steps up, that just motivates all of us.''
A sprained ankle had stopped the 6-foot-8 forward from stepping up recently. But after having treatment late into the night before the game, Mbah a Moute played superbly against the Musketeers. He had 13 points and 13 rebounds, including seven at the offensive end. He also had 3 steals, 3 assists and a blocked shot.
It was the sort of all-around game the Bruins need from the quiet junior from Cameroon. Mbah a Moute is a tenacious rebounder and an active defender who thrives in coach Ben Howland's aggressive man-to-man defense. Mbah a Moute also makes it tougher for rivals to double-team Love in the low post.
``We know at this point, without Luc playing major minutes, it is going to be very rough for us to advance,'' UCLA coach Ben Howland said before the Bruins played Western Kentucky in the third round. ``He has been a three-year starter. He is an integral part of what we do at both ends of the floor.''
It may be no coincidence that the Bruins struggled in the second and third rounds, when Mbah a Moute was hobbled by the ankle injury. He sprained it against Southern California on March 14.
M in the second round, Mbah a Moute scored 2 points with eight rebounds in 32 minutes. He also had six turnovers and four fouls.
Mbah a Moute again looked rusty in an 88-78 victory over Western Kentucky, a game in which the Bruins nearly blew a 21-point halftime lead. He scored seven points and had seven rebounds and four assists, but he also was charged with four turnovers in 36 minutes.
Mbah a Moute asserted himself during a 73-second span late in the first half, with UCLA clinging to a 26-20 lead over Xavier. On consecutive possessions, he muscled inside and drew fouls, converting 3-of-4 free throws. Then he ripped down an offensive rebound and scored to put the Bruins up by nine.
With 9 points and 8 rebounds, Mbah a Moute nearly had a double-double at halftime.
``I've been hurting the last couple games,'' he said. ``I just wanted to go out there and play my game.''