SAN DIEGO (AP) -- UCLA clanked free throws down the stretch, got
outrebounded, missed more than half its shots from 3-point range
and still won.
No one was more surprised than coach Ben Howland.
"All the stats went against us," he said. "To have everything
go against us and still win, it's a testament to the kids."
Jordan Farmar scored 18 points, including five 3-pointers, Arron
Afflalo had 13 points and Ryan Hollins 12 in a 62-59 victory over
Alabama on Saturday that sent the Bruins to their first NCAA
tournament regional since 2002.
No. 2 seed UCLA (29-6) will play third-seeded Gonzaga (29-3) in
Oakland, trying to get back to the Final Four for the first time
since their 1995 national championship.
"This is nothing new for UCLA," Howland said. "The standard
is set. We're supposed to win every game, one at a time."
The Bruins hung on for their ninth consecutive victory despite
missing seven of nine free throws down the stretch. They were
outrebounded 30-21 and 25 of their 47 shots were from 3-point
"We've got to make our free throws and outboard our opponents
if we're going to win any more games in this tournament," Howland
It wasn't supposed to be this tough for UCLA, coming off a
34-point win over Belmont in the first round.
But the Bruins were flustered by Alabama's zone in the first
half, and it showed on the aggravated faces of Farmar and Afflalo.
"Jordan is a perfectionist, so everything that doesn't go right
he wears on his sleeve," Howland said.
Ronald Steele scored 21 points for 10th-seeded Alabama (18-13),
which had seven players available. Three players were walk-ons who
didn't see action. Leading scorer Chuck Davis went down with a
season-ending knee injury in January.
"We were 7-6, lost our best player and today we were a jump
shot away from being in the sweet 16," Alabama coach Mark
Gottfried said. "I wouldn't do anything differently."
Twice in the final minute the Crimson Tide came within one
point, but the Bruins had an answer.
"We felt like even though we were down, the game was still
ours," Richard Hendrix said. "Even down to the last shot, we
thought we'd cruise into the next round. Unfortunately, things
didn't work out that way."
Alabama closed to 57-55 when Steele scored over Farmar in the
lane with 2 minutes remaining. Farmar coughed up the ball into
Steele's hands at the other end.
Steele got fouled and made one of two, putting Alabama within
one with a minute to play.
Afflalo got loose and launched a 3-pointer, keeping UCLA ahead
60-56 with 34 seconds left. He was scoreless in the first half.
"I was definitely aware I had a horrendous first half, but I'm
just glad my teammates knew they could still count on me," he
Darren Collison fouled Steele on a 3-point attempt, and he made
all three -- the first two rolling around before falling in -- to get
Alabama to 60-59 with 21 seconds remaining.
Freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute got fouled and made one of two
for UCLA for a 61-59 lead.
Steele's jumper at the top of the key with Afflalo defending him
fell short -- a shot he'd made in clutch situations all season.
"He cut me off on the initial move to the basket, but I got
free and it felt good when it left my hand," Steele said. "I had
a good look at it and just didn't make the shot."
Fifth-year senior Cedric Bozeman grabbed the rebound with
four-tenths of a second left, got fouled and made one of two before
the buzzer ended Alabama's upset hopes.
Alabama tied the game at 38 on three straight points by Hendrix
and Jean Felix's basket off a steal.
Then Farmar hit his fifth 3-pointer, launching UCLA on a 15-7
run that equaled its largest lead, 53-45, since the start of the
game. Afflalo made two 3-pointers and converted a fastbreak layup
off Collison's steal in the spurt, when Hollins and Jermareo
Davidson picked up their fourth fouls.
"We're a team that needs to avoid foul trouble," Gottfried
said. "It hurt our ability to score. That was a big factor."
Then, Farmar and Afflalo had to sit down with their fourth and
third fouls, respectively, leaving Collison to run the offense.
The Bruins opened the game perfectly, hitting their first five
shots, including three consecutive 3-pointers by Farmar, for an
But after Hollins dunked off Farmar's alley-oop pass, the
Crimson Tide switched to a zone that forced UCLA into a
mistake-prone stretch. The Bruins ran the shot clock down to its
final seconds while struggling to find a shot they liked, resulting
in airballs and turnovers.
Alabama took its first lead midway through the half on an inside
basket by Hendrix. Neither team led by more than four points before
Steele hit two free throws for a 30-all tie at the break.
Dressed like he could staff a rental car counter, Gottfried wore
his old-school red jacket again, but lost in it for the first time
since donning it late in the regular season.
Gottfried started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at
UCLA, where he was on the staff for the Bruins' record 11th
national championship in 1995.
"I wouldn't do anything differently," he said. "I'd put the
ball back in Ron Steele's hands down two. He makes that shot all
The Bruins' latest victory came in the same city where John
Wooden retired after coaching UCLA to its 10th NCAA title in 1975.