NCAA TOURNAMENT – SOUTH REGIONAL, THIRD ROUND:
UCLA BRUINS 77, Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 60
Jordan Adams (UCLA), 19 points
Norman Powell (UCLA), 16 points
Kyle Anderson (UCLA), 15 points
Thomas Walkup (Stephen F. Austin), 22 points and 11 rebounds
As far as the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are concerned after what happened in San Diego on Sunday…
So much for being a Cinderella team.
And so much for their 29-game winning streak.
However, those Southland Conference champs certainly deserve a big and hearty “Nice try” in their third round game against UCLA.
At least the Lumberjacks can say that it took the team with more national basketball titles than any other school to shatter that glass slipper and end their win streak and season as the Bruins was never really threatened in their 77-60 win, taking a ten-point lead at halftime and pretty much cruising from there.
And at least they exit with their first NCAA tournament win in their history.
Of course this round-of-32 triumph marks the Bruins 101st in the Big Dance, but still…
Stephen F. Austin State University has nothing to be ashamed of.
Getting back to this game, it was UCLA’s fifth straight victory – all in the postseason – and seventh in their last eight.
As the contest went on, it became a given that UCLA was going to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16 as along with the three Bruins that scored in double figures, they held the Lumberjacks to 35% shooting while making 55% from the field themselves.
Whatever chance Stephen F. Austin had at challenging the Bruins ended with first half runs of 12-2 and a 10-5 run to finish the game’s first 20 minutes.
“Cruising” was the best way to describe UCLA’s effort at Viejas Arena as although it was a fairly cut-and-dry win, they were beaten on the boards (32-28, including 9-4 in offensive rebounds) and at the charity stripe (13-16 to 15-23).
It is the Bruins’ first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2008, and personally speaking it marks Steve Alford’s team exceeding my expectations for the season.
In my preseason preview of this team, I had this squad winning between 20 and 25 games this year.
With a shot at the Sweet 16 if the stars aligned just right.
UCLA has now won 28 games and a berth among the final 16 teams in this Big Dance.
Nothing much, just a date with top-seeded and top-ranked Florida (34-2) in the South Regional semifinals in Memphis on Thursday.
Who has won 28 games in a row, going undefeated in the SEC and winning that conference tournament to boot.
Who easily dispatched their first two NCAA opponents, Albany and Pittsburgh.
And who has a recent history of breaking the hearts of Bruin Nation due to Florida’s wins over UCLA in the 2006 and 2007 Final Fours – the 2006 win clinching the national championship – and the second round in 2011.
The inevitable question remains…
Do I think these Bruins have a chance at beating the Gators and making the Elite Eight – and possibly the Final Four?
You’re going to have to check back on this site later this week, when a complete preview of UCLA’s battle with Florida will appear.