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January 24, 2008
Kevin Love jilted his home state of Oregon, and Ducks fans appear anxious to remind him of it.
The UCLA star freshman plays his first college game in Oregon on Thursday night when the eighth-ranked Bruins take on the Ducks at McArthur Court.
Love played his high school ball in Lake Oswego, about 110 miles north of Oregon's Eugene campus. Plenty of Ducks fans felt the 6-foot-10 center would choose Oregon, where his father Stan starred in the early 1970s.
Instead of following in his dad's footsteps and playing close to home, though, Love chose the tradition of UCLA.
"I've been recruited there (Oregon) since sixth or seventh grade," Love said. "They probably have a little anger in them that I didn't go to Oregon, but they always knew that I was going to either choose UNC (North Carolina) or UCLA."
Love announced his decision in the summer of 2006, but the story didn't end there. Stan Love made disparaging remarks about the Oregon program and Kevin Love was booed when he played at McArthur Court in the state playoffs.
"I'm expecting nothing but boos when I get announced. I think it will be horrible," Kevin Love said.
"It'll be fun, though, just seeing what they come up with. A lot of stuff will probably be derogatory, but I'm ready for it. It's kind of what college basketball is all about, opposing crowds and going and playing in hostile environments."
Stan Love and other family members and friends are expected to attend the game, including Kevin's uncle, Mike Love of the Beach Boys.
Oregon (12-6, 3-3 Pac-10) put an end to UCLA's unbeaten start last season, winning 68-66 at home Jan. 6, 2007 over a Bruins team that came in 14-0. The Bruins gained some revenge with a 69-57 victory at Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 1 for their fifth win in the last six games of the series.
UCLA (16-2, 4-1) heads to Oregon trying to bounce back from its first conference loss, 72-63 to Southern California on Saturday in its only game last week. Love had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Bruins, who had a nine-game winning streak snapped.
It was a poor defensive effort for UCLA, which allowed USC to shoot 60.9 percent - the highest by a Bruins opponent in the regular season since North Carolina shot 62.7 percent in UCLA's 109-68 loss on Nov. 27, 1997.
"We were way too emotional," coach Ben Howland said. "We were so caught up and our emotions took over. We made some bad decisions. I can't remember us ever being like that in the last few years."
The Ducks have won 11 straight at home, including all eight games this season as they return to McArthur Court after losing two road games last week. They fell 78-70 at Washington last Thursday and led most of the way before losing 69-60 at then-No. 8 Washington State on Sunday.
Maarty Leunen had 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Cougars for his 11th double-double of the season. He's third in the Pac-10 in that department, one spot ahead of Love, who has nine.
"We need to play every team like we played WSU," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.
UCLA forwards Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata-Real did not practice Tuesday because of concussions suffered in the USC game. Their status for Thursday is uncertain.
Oregon may get back forward Joevan Catron, who started the first 12 games before missing all six Pac-10 contests due to a foot injury. Catron has returned to practice.