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Archive for Monday, March 18, 2002

UCLA chases Cincy

Bearcats first No. 1 seed eliminated

March 18, 2002

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— Don't be fooled by UCLA's seed, record or inconsistent regular season. Once it's tournament time, nobody plays like the Bruins.

And now the storied program that helped put the Madness in March is at it again.

Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins watches from the bench against UCLA.
The No. 8-seeded Bruins ousted the No. 1 Bearcats, 105-101 in
double overtime, in their second-round NCAA Tournament West
Regional game Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins watches from the bench against UCLA. The No. 8-seeded Bruins ousted the No. 1 Bearcats, 105-101 in double overtime, in their second-round NCAA Tournament West Regional game Sunday in Pittsburgh.

UCLA, finally playing up to its potential, upending top-seeded Cincinnati 105-101 in double overtime Sunday behind Dan Gadzuric's career-high 26 points to move into the West Regional semifinals.

The Bearcats, never before a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, became the first No. 1 to exit this year's tournament.

And not surprisingly, it was the Bruins, college hoops' perennial No. 1 and owners of 11 national titles, who showed Cincinnati the door.

"When we come to play, we can beat anybody in the country," Bruins forward Matt Barnes said.

UCLA (21-11), whose enigmatic play left coach Steve Lavin scratching the slick-backed hair on his head all season, is suddenly a different team and one looking ready to make a run at the school's 12th national title.

"We've been up and down all season," Barnes said. "Especially with the high expectations we've had. But we usually get hot at tourney time."

Jason Kapono scored 19 points 17 after halftime and Barnes added 17 points all after the first 20 minutes and 11 assists for UCLA, which will meet 12th-seeded Missouri on Thursday in the regional semifinals in San Jose, Calif.

Going back to Pac-10 country will make it feel like a home game for the Bruins, who had to travel across three time zones for their first two NCAA tournament games.

"That's as talented an eight seed as there's ever been in the history of the tournament," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. "They're terrific."

Down 13 in the first half, UCLA rallied from an 11-point deficit in the second and then outscored Cincinnati 15-11 in the second OT to reach the round of 16 for the fifth time in six years.

It was UCLA's first double-overtime game in the tournament since 1974, when the Bruins lost to North Carolina State in the Final Four.

Leonard Stokes had a career-high 39 points, but All-American guard Steve Logan was held to 18 on just 6-of-18 shooting for the Bearcats (31-4), who have lost in the second round five times in six years.

"They ran two guys at me all day, one 6-7 and one 6-8," Logan said. "So it was hard for me to get any open looks. I wasn't getting open shots and I didn't want to force the issue. Other guys got good looks, they just didn't fall."

Cincinnati's loss was another tough one in the tourney for Huggins, whose lone trip to the Final Four came in 1992.

And as if losing weren't tough enough, Bearcats fans will have to wait to see if Huggins takes the vacant job at West Virginia, his alma mater.

Despite being two of the nation's elite programs, Cincinnati and UCLA hadn't played since 1965, but they made up for it with 50 sensational minutes Sunday.

They went to the first overtime tied at 80, and to the second extra period tied at 90. Both teams had chances to win it Barnes was short with a shot at the end of regulation, and Cincinnati missed several close-range shots after a scramble underneath in the final seconds of the first OT.

"We had the opportunities," Huggins said. "The ball just didn't bounce the way we wanted it to."

The Bruins finally opened some room by scoring the first four points of the second extra session and went up 97-93 with 1:27 left on a three-point play by Billy Knight.

Dijon Thompson's short jumper put UCLA up by six and, after another Cincinnati miss, Barnes was fouled. The senior then tucked the ball under his arm, raced under UCLA's basket, knelt and pointed his index finger to the sky.

"I knew I had to step up today," Barnes said.

Thompson hit two more free throws to put UCLA up 102-95, but the Bearcats weren't going quietly.

Field Williams and Logan hit consecutive 3-pointers to bring the Bruins to 103-101 with 1.6 seconds left, before freshman Ryan Walcott sealed it with a pair of free throws.

As the horn sounded, UCLA's players poured onto the floor to celebrate the school's 85th tournament win. One of them was senior guard Rico Hines, who hopped on one foot after sitting out the entire second half with a strained left knee.

Before UCLA's first-round game against Mississippi, Hines wrote "Final Four" on his sneakers to inspire his teammates who are starting to believe they can get there, too.

"Everybody is really confident right now," Gadzuric said. "We knew we had to play with confidence in this tournament."

Immanuel McElroy's steal and dunk with 9:20 left put the Bearcats up 65-54, and it looked like Cincinnati could start booking its trip to San Jose.

But Barnes hit two 3-pointers in 3 seconds the second coming after a foul was called on his first trey and after a turnover, the 6-foot-11 Gadzuric got free for a dunk to bring the Bruins within 65-62.

Kapono's 3-pointer with 5:09 left in regulation finally got the Bruins, who had trailed 47-37 at halftime, even at 71-all.

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