Sunday, March 26, 2006

UCLA Defense Smothers Memphis, Head To Final Four

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Eleven years after winning their last championship, UCLA is returning to the Final Four.

The Bruins defeated the Memphis Tigers, 50-45, demonstrating once again – great defense wins games.

UCLA (31-6) held Memphis to a season-low 45 points on a paltry 31.5% field goal shooting by playing the type of defense they’ve exhibited during the second half of the season – solid, physical, and 40 minutes of all-out effort.

Memphis appeared to be caught off guard by UCLA’s aggressive man-to-man defense. They began the game shooting only 1 of 13 from the floor as Bruin defenders did an excellent job of closing out on shooters and pressuring the ball.

The Tigers struggled from three-point distance, shooting only 2 of 17, with the only two made shots occurring near the end of regulation.

One of the keys to the Bruin’s defensive success was in the match-ups devised by UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland. He switched the defensive assignments of his starting perimeter players to create advantages at each position.

Howland had Cedric Bozeman guard Memphis’ Darius Washington. Washington, a very physical 6’2 point-guard had difficulty establishing the offense and creating his own shot against the bigger Bozeman - especially in the first half when he was limited to only 3 points.

With Bozeman checking Memphis’s point-guard, Farmar moved over to defend the off-guard, Antonio Anderson, who is more of a defensive player than scoring threat.

The most important assignment went to UCLA defensive-stopper Arron Afflalo who matched up with Memphis leading scorer, and C-USA Player of Year, Rodney Carney.

Carney came into the contest averaging 17.2 points, but against UCLA he managed only 2 points in the first-half, and finished the game with only 5 points on 2 of 12 shooting.

"Most of the shots I missed were open lay-ups," Carney said. "I'm disappointed in myself. I couldn't knock down shots. I missed almost every shot I took. He played great defense on me, but I played terrible."

From the beginning of the game, the Bruins aggressively attacked the Memphis defense and tried to get the ball inside, rather than passively settle for three-point shots as they did against Gonzaga. Moreover, UCLA did not attempt a three-point shot until seven minutes into the game.

The biggest recipient of all the inside attention given by the UCLA offense was senior center Ryan Hollins, and he capitalized on the opportunity.

Hollins dominated Memphis’s front line with strong offensive moves and footwork most have not seen him display before. Additionally, he established excellent low post position, and rather than hurry his shot as he did earlier in the season, he patiently created space and took his shot in the rhythm of his offensive move.

The Tiger’s smaller post players could not match Hollins’ intensity with each getting into early foul trouble. Most noteworthy was Memphis’s menacing defensive specialist in the post, Joey Dorsey who sat out most of the first half due to his foul trouble and was never a factor in the game. He later fouled out of the game after playing only 21 minutes.

As a result of Hollins’ exceptional play, he was voted Most Outstanding Player in the Oakland Region.

He finished this game with 14 points and 9 rebounds, and would have scored more but he only went 2 of 11 from the foul line.

And it was horrendous UCLA foul shooting which kept the score close throughout the game. The Bruins shot only 20-39 from the line (51.3%).

The only UCLA player who shot well from the line was Arron Afflalo who was 8 of 10 from the stripe and finished with a team-high 15 points.

Jordan Farmar was only 1 of 9 from the field for 4 points but he did a good in controlling the tempo of the game for UCLA.

"We never got going offensively but they didn't either," Farmar said. "I know I didn't do anything special offensively, but I'm the happiest guy on the planet."

The Bruins will face the LSU Tigers in their semifinal game of the Final Four in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 1 with a chance to advance to the finals on April 3.

Most expected this UCLA team to be at least one or two years away from competing for a national championship, but now that they have advanced - anything can happen.

"At UCLA, no other banners but national championships go up," Bruins point guard Jordan Farmar said. "We haven't really done anything in the eyes of UCLA and UCLA fans."



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