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MAUI WOW: BRUINS WIN TOURNAMENT UCLA TAKES CONTROL EARLY AND BEATS GEORGIA TECH UCLA 88, GA. TECH 73.

Byline: BRIAN DOHN Staff Writer

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Until the Pacific-10 Conference season rolls around in a month, UCLA's measuring stick is the Maui Invitational.

And the Bruins measure up well. Exceedingly well.

Junior guard Arron Afflalo scored 19 points, sophomore wing Michael Roll scored a surprising 13 first-half points, and No. 5 UCLA rolled past No. 19 Georgia Tech 88-73 Wednesday at the Lahaina Civic Center to win its first Maui title.

``That was a gratifying win because we beat a very good team,'' UCLA coach Ben Howland said. ``It was a great team effort. I'm just so excited about how we're playing right now, this early in the season.

``This is a hard, hard place to play. To put together three games in a row is really, really pleasing. We're going to take the next two days off and enjoy a Hawaiian vacation.''

UCLA point guard Darren Collison, who scored 15 points and had seven assists, was named the tournament's most outstanding player.

Collison averaged 13.3 points, seven assists and three turnovers in wins against Chaminade, Kentucky and the Yellow Jackets, and made his biggest mark since taking over for Jordan Farmar, who left UCLA after last season for the NBA.

``(Collison) has got long arms,'' Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt said. ``He's improved an awful lot. I saw him in high school. He's always been a hard-nosed kid, but his ball-handling is so much better.''

The tournament crown came in UCLA's third trip to Maui. The Bruins now will try to follow the path of 2004 Maui winner North Carolina, which went on to win the 2005 national championship.

``We still have to make some improvements as a team, but it's always good to learn from victories,'' said Afflalo, who was named to the all- tournament team. ``It's a good step. Winning the Maui (Invitational) is a huge stepping stone. It's led a lot of teams to victories throughout the rest of the season, so I'm very happy we won.''

It was an affair UCLA (4-0) controlled after the initial five minutes, and was never threatened during the last 30 minutes in an incredibly complete game.

Power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made all seven of his field-goal attempts and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds (five offensive), center Lorenzo Mata scored nine points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, Roll matched his season point total in the first half and even reserve center Alfred Aboya added five points.

Georgia Tech (5-1), which started three freshmen, was led in scoring by sophomore Lewis Clinch's 21 points. The Yellow Jackets allowed UCLA to shoot 58.5 percent from the field.

``We played well, but we've got a lot more games to focus on,'' Collison said. ``This is only our start. A lot of teams start out good, but end up bad. We want to continue the streak.''

The Bruins had trouble in the opening minutes on the boards, getting decimated as Georgia Tech grabbed the first eight rebounds, including five on the offensive end. But UCLA found its legs and intensity, and dominated everything the rest of the way.

In building an 11-point halftime lead, the Bruins wound up holding a 17-15 edge on the boards. While that solidified things for the Bruins' defense, offense came from an unlikely place.

Roll teamed with Mbah a Moute to trigger UCLA's offense and key a 20-8 run. Mbah a Moute scored six points, all on chippies, and Roll hit two 3-pointers and a baseline jumper as the Bruins went ahead 43-26 with 4:15 left in the half.

``Luc had five offensive rebounds, and every one of them seemed like it was for a bucket,'' Howland said. ``His offensive rebounds led to baskets. We tried to have three (defenders) back on a shot because we were so worried about their post game.''

After the Yellow Jackets opened the second half with a quick deuce from Zach Peacock to make it after halftime to trim UCLA's lead to 47-38, the first time it was in single digits since the midpoint of the first half, but it didn't stay that way long.

The Bruins scored 11 of the next 13 points, with Collison rolling in a 3-pointer and Afflalo adding a 14-foot baseline jumper to cap the spurt and give UCLA a 58-40 lead with 16:22 to play.

brian.dohn@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3607

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2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute celebrates with the Maui Invitational trophy.

(2 -- color) UCLA guard Darren Collison, left, drives on Georgia Tech guard Lewis Clinch. Collison was named tournament MVP.

Michael Conroy/Associated Press
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 23, 2006
Words:777
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