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Four-flushed again

Bruins can't hold the Tigers and come away without a title for the third year in a row.

April 06, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- Memphis had quicker hands and quicker feet than UCLA. Memphis jumped higher and shot with more confidence. Memphis was unfazed by the large stage of the NCAA Final Four and when this national semifinal game between the Tigers and Bruins was over, UCLA seemed diminished.

Memphis defeated UCLA, 78-63, Saturday at the Alamodome, UCLA's worst defeat since it lost to Florida, 73-57, in the national championship game two years ago.

It meant the Bruins (35-4) left the Final Four without a championship for the third year in a row -- the first time a team has left three consecutive Final Fours without a title since Duke in 1988-90.

The Tigers (38-1) will play Kansas, which defeated North Carolina, 84-66, on Monday night in a bid for their first national championship.

UCLA had been beaten twice in a row in the Final Four by Florida, but it was supposed to be different this time because the Bruins had a seasoned junior point guard in Darren Collison and an All-American freshman center in Kevin Love.

But after a beating as thorough as either handed to the Bruins by Florida, Collison and Love fought to keep tears away at the end.

"This one hurt more than the others," said Collison, who had a season-low two points before fouling out.

"I had to keep my emotions in check," Love said, "because we had such a special year."

Love barely managed to keep alive his season-long streak of scoring in double figures. He finished with 12 points on four-for-11 shooting and had nine rebounds after fighting against double teams the entire game.

Memphis freshman point guard Derrick Rose commanded the game with his precision and strength. He had 25 points, made 11 of his 12 free throws and had nine rebounds and four assists.

Rose almost always found his fellow guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, a junior who finished with a game-high 28 points. UCLA sophomore Russell Westbrook, who had taken pride in stopping many of the Pacific 10 Conference's top perimeter players, was dunked over, run around, turned backward and sideways by Douglas-Roberts.

Memphis forward Joey Dorsey, a 6-foot-9, 265-pound senior, didn't score but had 15 rebounds, helping the Tigers outrebound UCLA, 43-36.

"They did a good job of defending us," Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "They did a good job of exposing our mismatches and every time we made a mistake they turned it into an opportunity. They did a good job of denying us the ball, they did a good job of double-teaming Kevin.

"At the end of the day they were the better team."

After Collison made his only basket, a five-foot jump shot with five seconds left in the first half, the Bruins felt lucky to trail only 38-35.

"I didn't feel great about how we played the first half," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "They hurt us in transition. Every time we would turn it over they took advantage. They had nine offensive boards in the first half."

However, there was no momentum gained by Collison's shot at the end of the half.

Rose made two free throws to start the half and Douglas-Roberts beat Westbrook for a layup, giving Memphis an immediate boost, a 42-35 lead and forcing UCLA to call a timeout. Howland said UCLA was fighting an uphill battle the rest of the way.

There was a point where Love rimmed out a three-pointer early in the second half and threw up his hands in frustration and about a minute later when Josh Shipp did the same and Mbah a Moute let the rebound dribble out of his hands, out of bounds. Then Collison turned the ball over twice in a row and the game disappeared for the Bruins.

Dorsey said his main purpose was to get rebounds and make it difficult for Love to catch the ball. He did that job well. Love scored only one basket in the second half and got only five shots.

"They were swarming me," Love said. "They were coming at me. A couple of plays I threw the ball away. Other than that, other players needed to step up and hit big shots."

With 2:53 left and UCLA behind, 63-52, Collison reached around Rose at midcourt and committed his fifth foul. It seemed almost an act of surrender. Collison walked to the bench with his head down and Rose made both free throws.

The game had started out well for UCLA. Mbah a Moute scored an opening layup off a Westbrook feed and Shipp, whose shooting temperature has been taken on a daily basis for the last month, made a three-pointer to give UCLA a 5-0 lead.

That went away in an 11-2 Memphis spurt that started with two free throws by Douglas-Roberts, was followed by an Antonio Anderson three-pointer, layups by Rose and Douglas-Roberts and a Rose dunk on a fastbreak.

"They were jumping over us," said Westbrook, who had a team-high 22 points for UCLA. "Lot of dunking and stuff."

Memphis Coach John Calipari was more satisfied than celebratory afterward.

"We played kind of like we played all year," he said. "We defended."

For that, the Bruins had no defense.




38 special?

Most victories in a men's college basketball season:

38-1 -- Memphis, 2008, TBD

37-2 -- Illinois, 2005,

lost in championship game

37-2 -- Duke, 1999,

lost in championship game

37-2 -- UNLV, 1987,

lost in national semifinals

37-3 -- Duke, 1986,

lost in championship game

- Associated Press

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