OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Before rushing to cut down the nets,
UCLA's players and coaches stayed on the podium and led their fans
in a popular school cheer.
That's right, the Bruins are back. College basketball's most
storied program is going to the Final Four again. Arron Afflalo,
coach Ben Howland and the rest of the Bruins have returned UCLA to
the lofty level of its glory years.
Afflalo scored 15 points and shut down Memphis leading scorer
Rodney Carney, helping No. 2 seed UCLA defeat the top-seeded Tigers
50-45 Saturday and earn a trip to Indianapolis for its first Final
Four appearance since the school's 1995 NCAA championship.
"This is special and this is a special group of guys," UCLA
senior Cedric Bozeman said. "We play defense. That's what we do.
We didn't let them walk over us."
Ryan Hollins added 14 points, nine rebounds and drew two charges
on defense as the cold-shooting Bruins won their 11th straight game
to capture the Oakland Regional in the lowest-scoring regional
final since the shot-clock era began in 1986.
UCLA (31-6) will play in next Saturday's semifinals against LSU,
a 70-60 overtime winner over Texas in the Atlanta Regional final
earlier in the day.
The Bruins have 11 national titles -- more than any other school
-- 10 under Hall of Fame coach John Wooden starting in the
mid-1960s. They are making their 16th Final Four appearance, tying
North Carolina for the most ever.
"This program is where it is right now, as the greatest
tradition in all of college basketball, the greatest history in all
of college basketball," Howland said. "Eleven national
championships. It all starts with Coach Wooden. ...
"I think our team embodies the spirit of what Coach is all
about, which is teamwork, which is unselfish play, which is a
commitment at both ends of the floor to play together."
After the final buzzer Saturday, the ecstatic Bruins quickly
pulled on new T-shirts and hats. Hollins cradled the regional's
Most Outstanding Player trophy with his right arm while Darren
Collison climbed the ladder to be the first to clip the net.
"At UCLA, no other banners but national championships go up,"
Bruins point guard Jordan Farmarsaid. "We haven't really done
anything in the eyes of UCLA and UCLA fans."
Darius Washington Jr. scored 13 points to lead the Tigers
(33-4), who saw their seven-game winning streak end along with the
career of Carney, a possible NBA lottery pick who hoped to play his
final game in his hometown of Indianapolis for the Final Four.
As both teams expected, this wasn't nearly the high-scoring game
they played last time, when Memphis won 88-80 behind 26 points from
Shawne Williams in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT in November
at New York's Madison Square Garden.
The 88 points are the most UCLA's defense has allowed this
season and Williams' 26 the highest individual performance against
Defense has become the Bruins' trademark, a stark contrast from
the last time UCLA won the title. The '95 Bruins beat Connecticut
102-96 in the regional final in an up-and-down game. These Bruins
aren't even close to the offensive juggernaut of that '95 team with
Ed O'Bannon and Tyus Edney.
UCLA won despite going 4-of-17 in the second half and shooting
"We never got going offensively but they didn't either,"
Bruins point guard Farmar said. "I know I didn't do
anything special offensively, but I'm the happiest guy on the
Memphis' only field goal in the first 8:24 of the second half
Saturday didn't even go in the basket. Washington got credit for
the points on a goaltending call.
UCLA got this far by surviving close games, and this time by
surviving serious free-throw woes. The Bruins, 20-of-39 at the
line, pulled off an improbable 73-71 comeback win over Gonzaga in
the third round after beating Alabama 62-59 in their second NCAA
game. UCLA rallied from nine points down in the final 3:27 to beat
The hyper Howland, who has turned around the program in three
years, slid along his bench all game. He even raised his arms in
the air late as a call for the fans to get more involved in the
program's first final eight appearance since 1997.
Close to three-quarters of the fans in the sold-out crowd
sported Bruins' baby blue and yellow, including former UCLA great
Memphis shot 2-for-17 on 3-pointers and Carney was held to five
points on 2-for-12 shooting in his final college game. Afflalo
swarmed Carney at every chance, only two days after defending
national scoring leader Adam Morrison.
Carney knelt in the circle at midcourt after the final buzzer. A
teammate tried to console him, and Carney motioned him away while
workers began to set up for UCLA's ceremony.
"Most of the shots I missed were open layups," Carney said.
"I'm disappointed in myself. I couldn't knock down shots. I missed
almost every shot I took. He played great defense on me, but I
The Pac-10 regular-season and tournament champion Bruins
acknowledged they hadn't seen a team as athletic as Memphis, then
outplayed the Tigers all game. It was the first true test of the
tournament for Memphis after three straight 16-point victories.
Hollins, one of the seniors who was part of the program's trying
times, scored five straight points in one first-half stretch in
which he also blocked a shot and took a charge to draw the first
foul on Williams. Hollins drew another offensive foul on Williams
late in the half.
Memphis, which won the Conference USA regular-season and
tournament crowns and reached the regional final for the first time
since 1992, started the game 1-for-13. The Tigers were 5-of-23 at
one point and missed all 10 of their first-half 3-point tries.
The Bruins went 8½ minutes without a field goal late in the
first half before Afflalo's baseline 3 contributed to a 28-21
Memphis coach John Calipari has produced 20-win seasons in each
of his six years at the school but failed to become the 13th person
to lead two or more schools to the Final Four. Calipari took
Massachusetts to the Final Four in 1996, and the Minutemen lost to
Kentucky in the semifinals.
"That's quite a somber locker room in there," Calipari said.
"They had visions of winning this whole thing. It's not one guy.
We played bad, I coached bad, it's everybody."