March 23, 2006
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute provided a shocking ending to Adam Morrison's amazing season.
Mbah a Moute scored underneath with 10 seconds left and the second-seeded Bruins scored the final 11 points of the game to knock out Morrison and third-seeded Gonzaga 73-71 Thursday night to advance to the regional final.
Morrison, Gonzaga's shaggy-haired star, made two free throws with 3:26 to go, giving him 24 on the night and the Bulldogs (29-4) a 71-62 lead. But the Bruins (30-6) didn't wilt.
Mbah a Moute scored six of the final 11 points and got a key steal in the final seconds to seal the win and send UCLA to its first regional final since 1997. The Bruins will play Saturday against Memphis (33-3), which beat Bradley 80-64 in the first semifinal of the Oakland regional. The Tigers beat the Bruins 88-80 in November.
J.P. Batista missed a desperation 15-footer at the buzzer and fell into the Zags' bench, where coach Mark Few helped him up.
When the buzzer sounded, UCLA senior Cedric Bozeman ran around the court with the ball in his hands - Ryan Hollins right with him. Hollins and Afflalo went to help up Morrison, who was spread on the floor at midcourt.
UCLA never led until the final seconds, staging a thrilling late-game rally that will be remembered for years at the tradition-rich school with 11 national titles.
Mbah a Moute started the comeback with two free throws and then scored on a putback with 2:09 to go to make it 71-66. Morrison, who shot 10-for-17 but missed his last four from the field, missed a jumper with about a minute left and Jordan Farmar scored quickly on the other end to make it a three-point game.
Morrison missed again the next time down and Batista fouled Hollins going for the rebound. Hollins made both free throws to make it 71-70 and the Bruins then stole the ball in the backcourt from Batista, setting up Mbah a Moute's go-ahead score.
Farmar and Afflalo, UCLA's stellar guards, each scored 15 despite poor shooting nights. Mbah a Moute added 14 and Hollins had 12.
Batista had 18 points and nine rebounds and Raivio added 12 points and six assists.
The loss by Gonzaga also brings an end to the season-long, cross-country scoring battle between Morrison and Duke's J.J. Redick, who also lost Thursday. Morrison averaged 28.1 points, edging out Redick, who finished his senior season at 26.8.
Gonzaga took it right to UCLA from the start of a game billed as a showdown for West Coast supremacy. The Bulldogs, criticized much of the year for being a one-man team that plays little defense, proved those theories wrong early.
Using changing defenses and a full-court press at times to keep UCLA off-balance, Gonzaga forced the Bruins to miss their first eight shots and turn the ball over seven times before making their first basket 8:43 into the game to cut it to 18-9.
Things were so bad that both teams got into the bonus before UCLA made its first shot and after back-to-back turnovers against the Bulldogs press, Farmar looked at the bench and shrugged his shoulders looking for any help he could get.
Morrison beat UCLA's defensive stopper, Afflalo, with a one-hand runner in the lane on the first possession and talked trash as well, yelling "Let's go Afflalo!" late in the half as if he was looking for a bigger challenge. That challenge game down the stretch.
The referees had to separate Morrison from Bozeman and Afflalo and different points in the game because play was getting too chippy.
The Bulldogs led 42-29 lead at the break, holding UCLA to 7-for-27 shooting, while making 15 of 26 on their end.