LOS ANGELES (AP)—In his first few weeks at UCLA, Kevin Love has shown he can put up spectacular numbers.
Now the freshman star has shown he has a flair for the dramatic, too.
Love froze fans headed for the exits when he fell on a Yale player after a tip-in and twisted his left ankle. He forced a collective moan when he limped to the locker room with his shoe off moments later with just over seven minutes left in the second-ranked Bruins’ 81-47 blowout of the Bulldogs on Friday night.
But Love ran back into the gym and waved to a roaring crowd minutes later, taking his seat on the bench with 3:45 to go and the Bruins leading by 39.
“He wanted me to put him back in,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
Love said his foot, which was slightly sprained, felt fine when he returned to the court but was “a little sore” after the game.
“I was just trying to be tough, and I did want to get back out on the floor,” Love said. “We had a substantial lead, but I wanted to get back out there and play a little bit.”
“I’ve never sprained an ankle before, so that’s a little something different for me.”
Love, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, had 15 points and point guard Russell Westbrook also had 15, a career-high, as UCLA remained unbeaten and run their home winning streak to 24.
In what looks to be a more serious injury for the already-hobbled Bruins, starting center Alfred Aboya took an elbow to the right eye in the first half. He experienced blurred vision and was taken to UCLA Medical Center for X-rays.
Aboya suffered a fracture of the orbital floor, UCLA spokesman Ryan Finney said. Aboya will have to undergo further evaluation early next week.
“It was a nice win for us, but it was obviously tempered by the fact that Alfred got hurt,” Howland said. “That’s really my biggest concern … “If there’s a lot of (bone) displacement, he could be out for a month and a half, but if it’s just a fracture he can wear a mask.”
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Bruins (6-0), Josh Shipp added 12 points and Lorenzo Mata-Real had 12 rebounds.
Yale (1-3) had players that matched Love’s 6-foot-10 height, but none that came close to his bulk, and he overpowered the Bulldogs underneath the basket, managing most of his early points on dunks.
Yale was able to score from the outside on UCLA early, with 3-pointers from Nick Holmes and Alex Zampier tying the game at 17.
But a long jumper from Love and a burst of defensive energy spurred a 16-1 run for UCLA that included 3-pointers from Shipp and a steal and dunk from Westbrook that gave the Bruins a 33-18 halftime lead.
“They played us very tough for the first 15 minutes,” Howland said. “But finally our defensive pressure started to wear them down.”
Love went 4-for-5 from the field and had nine points in the first half.
UCLA then opened the second half with a 14-4 run, and led by at least 17 the rest of the way.
It was a tough but not unexpected swing through California for Yale, which also lost 72-61 to Stanford on Wednesday.
“It was a good experience because we know what the best looks like,” said Yale coach James Jones, who has two players from California on his roster. “Playing where John Wooden coached is going to be something these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Matt Kyle led the Bulldogs with 10 points.
It was the second-ever meeting and the first in more than 40 years between the two teams. The last was a 30-point UCLA victory in 1963.
Injuries notwithstanding, the early, easy blowout at home was a relief for UCLA after a pair of sloppy first halves in Kansas City against Maryland on Monday and No. 10 Michigan State on Tuesday forced hard-fought second-half rallies.
And after playing three games in five days, the Bruins now play just twice in the next two weeks, hosting George Washington on Nov. 28 and No. 15 Texas on Dec. 2 before several more days off.
That’s good news for a team that’s had to win with injuries to top players.
They were again without point guard and team leader Darren Collison, who hasn’t played since spraining his left knee in a preseason game Nov. 2. The injury has kept him out of action far longer than the four or five days that were initially expected, but he could return as soon as next week against George Washington.
The Bruins have also gone the entire regular season without guard Michael Roll, who was expected to vie for a starting job before tearing the plantar fascia in his foot. Roll may also be back by next week.