Archive for Thursday, March 17, 2011

UCLA builds early lead, holds off Michigan State

UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt (23) shoots during the second half of a Southeast regional second-round NCAA tournament college basketball game in Tampa, Fla., Thursday, March 17, 2011. UCLA defeated Michigan State 78-76.

UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt (23) shoots during the second half of a Southeast regional second-round NCAA tournament college basketball game in Tampa, Fla., Thursday, March 17, 2011. UCLA defeated Michigan State 78-76.

March 17, 2011

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UCLA kept clanking free throws, Michigan State kept draining 3-pointers. It turned a potential rout into a nailbiter.

In the end, the Bruins escaped. But just barely.

Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee scored 16 points apiece and seventh-seeded UCLA held off a late comeback by the 10th-seeded Spartans 78-76 in the Southeast regional of the NCAA tournament.

The Bruins (23-10) won despite missing 17 free throws, nine of them in the final 3:40 while the Spartans were making a barrage of 3-pointers to get back into the game. They advanced to a third-round matchup against No. 2 seed Florida, which beat 15th-seeded UC Santa Barbara 79-51.

UCLA led 42-24 at the half and by as many as 23 in the second half before nearly letting the game slip away against a team hoping to make an improbable run in the tournament to a third consecutive Final Four. The Bruins were 30 of 47 from the foul line and only made two field goals over the final eight minutes.

Draymond Green led Michigan State (19-15) with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Durrell Summers added 15 and Spartans star Kalin Lucas finished with 11 after going the first 32 minutes without scoring.

Lucas, averaging 20.9 over his previous 14 games, missed his first eight shots before finally scoring on a steal and layup with 7:45 remaining. Unfortunately for Michigan State that first basket didn't come until after Honeycutt and Joshua Smith keyed a 15-2 burst that had rebuilt UCLA's lead to 23 after the Spartans pulled within 10 early in the second half.

Michigan State wasn't finished, though.

Green and Lucas made 3-pointers to start a game-ending 35-14 run. Freshman Keith Appling made three treys during the surge, the final one pulling the Spartans within 77-76 with 4.4 seconds remaining.

Lee went the foul line for UCLA, sinking one of two free throws, leaving Michigan State with one more chance and 4.4 seconds left. That opportunity disappeard when Lucas was called for traveling while trying to dribble through a triple team.

Coming off consecutive trips to the Final Four and returning most of its key players, Michigan State began the season ranked No. 2 but sputtered against a tough nonconference schedule and really never hit its stride in the Big Ten, either. The inconsistency left Izzo and his players wondering if the Spartans would even extend its string of consecutive NCAA appearances to 14 — third longest in the nation behind Kansas (22) and Duke (16).

UCLA is back in the tourney after a one-year absence with a team that starts five underclassmen and had just two players — Lee and another junior, Jerime Anderson — with NCAA experience before Thursday night.

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