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Back in the Big Dance: UCLA drops Memphis


Published: Sat, March 25, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The most storied program in college basketball is back in the Final Four.
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.
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 Saturday's semifinals against LSU, a 70-60 overtime winner over Texas in the Atlanta Regional final earlier in the day.
Strong play
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 the Bruins.
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 the title team with Ed O'Bannon and Tyus Edney.
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.
Surviving weaknesses
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 Zags.
The hyper Howland, who has turned around the program in three years, slid along his bench all game, squatting low to applaud a great play, jumping up to celebrate his team taking a charge on defense -- even raising 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.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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