Bruins rekindle past glory
UCLA 59, LSU 45: A rout brings back memories of an era of domination.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published April 2, 2006
INDIANAPOLIS - When your school has won 11 national championships like UCLA, the gauge of success is nothing less than banners, no matter how many years has passed between winning them.
Well, the Bruins, who dominated college basketball a generation ago under John Wooden but last won an NCAA title in 1995, inched closer to measuring up to their storied past Saturday with a resounding 59-45 win against LSU in front of an announced crowd of 43,822 at the RCA Dome.
No. 2-seeded UCLA (32-6) will bring a 12-game winning streak into Monday night's finale against the Florida Gators. UCLA can only hope to duplicate Saturday's performance.
It was like the days of yore.
"Our intensity defensively for the entire 40 minutes was really, really incredible," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "That's the best defense we've played all year and we needed that in order to beat a team as talented and as good as LSU."
The Tigers (27-9), the SEC regular-season champions, were held to a season-low point total and their lowest since scoring 33 in a loss at Mississippi on Feb. 7, 2001. They also shot just 32 percent from the field.
The biggest struggles belonged to the biggest Tiger, 6-9, 310-pound sophomore forward Glen Davis, the SEC player of the year. He had a team-high 14 points but shot just 5 of 17 and was frustrated by UCLA freshman forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
"My back hurts right now," said the 6-7, 224-pound Mbah a Moute of going against Davis. "He's big. He's going to be in the NBA. He's a great player." He praised his teammates who collapsed on Davis and made every shot difficult.
"What can I say? Tonight was their night," Davis said.
Not just this night.
Howland's signature has been a rugged, relentless defense. Entering the game, the Bruins befuddled their previous 11 opponents, allowing an average of 54.7 points on 39.6 shooting. "They're looking at each other, pointing fingers, sometimes their eyes get real big like a deer in the headlights," UCLA sophomore guard Jordan Farmar said.
But the Bruins also took it to the Tigers at the offensive end, succeeding where Duke and Texas failed last week. They opened shooting 6-for-9 for an 18-8 lead.
"I thought the first 10-12 minutes of the game, UCLA was able to get us back on our heels," LSU coach John Brady said. "We weren't really able to recover."
UCLA could have been in trouble when Farmar and fellow star sophomore guard Arron Afflalo both were on the bench with two fouls for the final 8:28 of the half, but it wasn't.
Heck. It actually extended the lead to 39-24 at the break behind Mbah a Moute. The Bruins were 14 of 24 shooting (58.3 percent) in the opening half, that against a defense that had carried the Tigers to Indianapolis.
In the decisive, opening minutes of the second half, Mbah a Moute had consecutive two-handed slams and senior center Ryan Hollins dunked on an alley-oop feed from Farmar for a 45-25 lead.
It was 50-27 with 15:34 left and from there, the Bruins managed the clock and began looking ahead to Monday.
Like the days of yore.