LOS ANGELES (AP)—On a UCLA team without seniors, a couple of sophomores showed they learned something in last season’s run to the national championship game.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored a career-high 24 points, bettering his old mark of 17 set against LSU in the national semifinal, and keyed a second-half comeback in the sixth-ranked Bruins’ 82-69 win over BYU on Wednesday night.
“That’s just part of me getting better,” said Mbah a Moute, who grabbed 11 rebounds.
Point guard Darren Collison had career highs of 16 points and 10 assists and one turnover playing 38 minutes in his debut as successor to Jordan Farmar, who left early for the NBA draft and now plays downtown for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Farmar was in the crowd, along with 96-year-old John Wooden, who coached the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships.
“It felt a lot different than last year,” Collison said. “I can work on some things.”
Josh Shipp added 13 points in his return after missing all but four games last season while recovering from hip surgery.
Arron Afflalo, last year’s leading scorer, was held to nine points, but liked what he saw from Mbah a Moute and Collison.
“They played a complete game on both ends,” he said. “It’s a great way for these two to start the season off.”
Keena Young was the only player in double figures with 16 points for BYU, which hit 10 3-pointers but committed 23 turnovers. Trent Plaisted, last year’s Mountain West freshman of the year, got in foul trouble and scored seven points.
“That’s a great team,” Young said. “We came to see where we were with the big teams, and we were with them.”
The Bruins took an early lead in their first game since losing to Florida in the national championship game seven months ago, then fell behind by nine points, buried by an avalanche of 3-pointers from the Cougars.
“Everything else we did pretty well, but our turnovers killed us,” said Sam Burgess, who hit all three of his long-range attempts. “They made a run, we came back. We had a shot to win the game. We just couldn’t hold it.”
Mbah a Moute, last season’s Pac-10 freshman of the year, got UCLA going to start the second half. The Bruins ran off 10 consecutive points, including five by Mbah a Moute and a 3-pointer by Collison, and regained a 46-41 lead.
The Cougars got within two on consecutive 3-pointers by Burgess and Lee Cummard.
The Bruins staved off the threat and stretched their lead to nine points, helped by Mbah a Moute’s six points and a 3-pointer by Michael Roll.
BYU again got to 64-62 on a basket by Jimmy Balderson before Alfred Aboya scored consecutive baskets that extended UCLA’s lead to 68-62.
Collison got the crowd on its feet with two minutes left by grabbing a defensive rebound and completing a fastbreak dunk for a 73-62 lead.
“This was like an NCAA (tournament) game, except we were at home,” said coach Ben Howland, who is 4-0 in season openers at UCLA. “I have no doubt BYU will be in the tournament at the end of the year. I hope we don’t have to play them.”
As good as the Cougars’ shooting was most of the game, they were limited to three field goals in the final 6:45. Cummard committed an intentional foul on Shipp, who made both as UCLA led 75-63 with 1 1/2 minutes to go.
“We got disoriented in the second half with running our stuff,” second-year BYU coach Dave Rose said. “Their pressure late in the game didn’t allow us to get the ball where we wanted on the floor.”
The Cougars hit eight 3-pointers in the first half, when their biggest lead was 29-20. The Bruins then buckled down and outscored BYU 16-10 mostly on inside baskets to close the half trailing 39-36.
Mike Rose had three of BYU’s 3-pointers, including two in a row that gave the Cougars their nine-point lead. Burgess got the long-range assault started with two straight before Austin Ainge sandwiched a pair around one by Rose.