Final Four: UCLA feeling the pain
SAN ANTONIO ó Defense has carried UCLA to three consecutive Final Four appearances. It has yet to earn them a national championship under coach Ben Howland.
The Memphis Tigers spent Sunday talking about playing in Monday night’s title game against Kansas. The bummed-out Bruins flew home to Los Angeles, still feeling the pain of a 78-63 clawing by the Tigers in the semifinals.
Two years ago, Florida played stifling defense and forced the Bruins into 36 percent shooting from the floor and 12 turnovers in the championship game. Last year, the Gators again trumped the Bruins in the semifinals.
This time, UCLA was stymied by Memphis’ speed-up offense and athletic bunch of players. They caused the Bruins to shoot 37.5 percent and commit 12 turnovers. The 15-point loss was their worst of the season.
“We did what we have been doing all year, but it just wasn’t enough,” Josh Shipp said. “We had a good season, but for UCLA standards it was disappointing.”
Asked what has to change for the Bruins to win at the Final Four, Howland replied, “Every year’s different. I don’t know if there’s some sweeping change that we need. It’s very difficult to get here. Unfortunately for us, we’ve run up against now three really good teams.”
The Bruins finished 35-4, a school record for victories and three more than the old mark set by the 1995 national title team and tied in 2006.
They brought a 14-game winning streak into the national semifinal, including a 51-49 comeback victory over Texas A&M in the second round and an 88-78 win against Western Kentucky in the regional semifinal.
But Memphis’ backcourt of freshman Derrick Rose (25 points, nine rebounds) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (28 points) overwhelmed the Bruins’ Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook. Rose also proved the better rookie against UCLA freshman phenom Kevin Love.