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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tough Love due up next

    Opponent Analysis

    As if beating UCLA for the first time in six games wasn’t going to be tough enough for the Arizona men’s basketball team, now the Wildcats have to battle a sloth of Bruins led by super freshman Kevin Love tomorrow night in Pauley Pavilion.

    Behind the play of guard Arron Afflalo – now with the Detroit Pistons – the Bruins did just fine last season, making it to the Final Four for the 17th time in school history. But with Afflalo leaving after his junior season, No. 5 UCLA is reaping the benefits of the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Love, the reigning Pacific 10 Player of the Week, giving him three such awards on the season.

    “”He’s the guy that’s quickly becoming the heart and soul of his team,”” UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said of Love, “”He’s just solid. Tough. Hard-nosed. Great. Competitive spirit. He’s playing for one of the top teams in the country and he’s one of the top players on that team.””

    Love came to Los Angeles from Lake Oswego, Ore., as a power forward who once shattered a glass backboard with a two-handed dunk. He came in as a McDonald’s All-American, having played on the same team as UA guard Jerryd Bayless. And as a handful of young men did, he came into this season as a national icon.

    Not only was he the Naismith Boys High School Player of the Year in high school – averaging 33 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and three blocks per game in his senior season – but he’s the son of a former NBA player, Stan Love, and the nephew of Beach Boys singer Mike Love.

    Needless to say, he’s been taught how to deal with the attention he receives.

    Though he told the New York Times that the media attention “”doesn’t wear on me,”” dozens of interviews per week did take their toll on Kevin, as his media availability was drastically limited in early January so he could concentrate on school.

    After all, he did make the honor roll last semester.

    “”We’ve talked about it,”” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said about Love’s publicity. “”Just go out and do your business and I think he’s done that.””

    Love leads the Bruins in scoring (17.3 ppg, eighth in the Pac-10) and rebounding (11.3 boards per game, second) going into yesterday, giving USC head coach Tim Floyd reason to compare Love to NBA forward Elton Brand.

    “”They both use their size and strength to create separation, offensively,”” Floyd said. “”Both are terrific rebounders. Both can step out and take a 15- or 17-foot shot. Both can post you.””

    Love’s ability to hit the 3-pointer here and there is also something that could give Arizona forward Jordan Hill problems covering him. But that doesn’t scare Hill.

    “”I’m looking forward to taking on any big man that steps in my way,”” Hill said. “”I’ve said it before: I’m just not intimidated by no one.””

    Three Bruins help Love on the offensive end, as guards Darren Collison (14.6 ppg), Josh Shipp (14.2 ppg) and Russell Westbrook (11.7 ppg) all averaged double digits going into yesterday.

    And not far behind is forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (9.5 ppg). Mbah a Moute, who was cleared to practice again after a CT scan came back negative Monday, sat out the last two games with center Lorenzo Mata after both players suffered concussions against USC on Jan. 19.

    “”I think UCLA has good depth,”” O’Neill said. “”They’ve got a bunch of guys that have won before and they’ve got a great freshman in Kevin Love. They’ll also be a big challenge for us.””


    Tale of the tape: Arizona @ No. 5 UCLA

    Guards
    Josh Shipp provides the shooting, Darren Collison the passing and Russell Westbrook the dynamic athleticism for a three-headed backcourt that’s tough to contain.
    Advantage: UCLA
    Forwards/Center
    Although Kevin Love is the headliner, the Bruins also bring loads of depth off the bench up front, which should be frustrating for Jordan Hill playing on his own.
    Advantage: UCLA
    Intangibles
    UCLA has won five in a row in this series, and the Pauley Pavilion crowd will do all it can to ensure a sixth straight victory.
    Advantage: UCLA
    Prediction
    This certainly isn’t last year’s Arizona team, but that doesn’t mean the Wildcats are ready to scale the UCLA mountain quite yet. Check back March 2 when the Bruins visit McKale Center on Senior Day.
    No. 5 UCLA 74, Arizona 65

    – Compiled by Michael Schwartz

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