A week ago, few thought UCLA belonged in the field of 68. Now the Bruins have advanced to the Sweet 16.
UCLA owned the inside against UAB on Saturday, cruising to a 92-75 win in the Round of 32 in Louisville and is now off to the NCAA tournament's second weekend for the second consecutive year under head coach Steve Alford.
Despite entering the Big Dance at 20-13, the Bruins knocked out the South Regional's No. 6 seed, SMU, on Thursday thanks in large part to a controversial goaltending call on a three-point attempt with 11 seconds to go that gave them a 60-59 win. UCLA needed no such help on Saturday. Junior forward Tony Parker had 28 points—almost all on layups or dunks—and 12 rebounds as the Bruins scored 50 points in the paint, won the rebounding battle 41-26 and shot an amazing 60.3% from the field.
Bryce Alford, who hit 9-of-11 three-pointers against the Mustangs, including the controversial goaltended three, had 22 points on Saturday to go with five assists. All five UCLA starters scored in double figures. Robert Brown, with 25, and William Lee, with 10, led the Blazers in scoring.
Coming off a shocking upset of No. 3 seed Iowa State, the Big 12 tournament champion, UAB jumped out to a 21-15 lead midway through the first half. But UCLA then made nine straight shots, six of them layups or dunks by Parker, over the next five minutes to take a six-point lead of its own. The Bruins stretched the lead to nine at halftime on one of Alford's three triples on the afternoon, and pushed the advantage to 14 at 54-40 three minutes into the second half on still another layup, this one by freshman Kevon Looney, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Tyler Madison hit one of UAB's 12 three-pointers to close the gap to six at 64-58 with 10:31 left, but UCLA scored the next six points and were never seriously threatened again.
UCLA now moves on to the semifinals of the South region in Houston next Friday where they will face the winner of Duke and San Diego State.