March 13, 2002
GAME: No. 9 Mississippi (20-10) vs. No. 8 UCLA (19-11).
REGIONAL: West, First Round.
TIME: Friday, 10:05 p.m. EST.
SITE: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh.
UCLA has the talent to beat anyone in the NCAA tournament. Whether or not the Bruins will play up to their potential remains to be seen.
After making it to the regional semifinals last year, the Bruins open tournament play against Mississippi in the first meeting between the schools.
UCLA, which finished sixth in the Pac-10 this season, was knocked out of the conference tournament in the first round by California, 67-61.
When they are playing well, the Bruins can be beat anyone as seen by victories this season over No. 2 Kansas, No. 7 Arizona and No. 8 Alabama. However, with the glory has come inconsistency as UCLA has suffered bad losses to lesser teams like Arizona State and Villanova.
Coach Steve Lavin has led the Bruins to at least the regional semifinals in four of the last five seasons, including a round-of-16 loss to eventual national champion Duke last year.
Jason Kapono leads UCLA in scoring, averaging 16.7 points, followed by Matt Barnes with 13.4 and Dan Gadzuric with 11.1 per game. Gadzuric, a 6-foot-11 senior, leads UCLA in rebounding, grabbing 7.6 per game.
UCLA will have its hands full with Mississippi's stingy defense. The Rebels have held the opposition to 63.8 points and 42.9 percent shooting per game.
"I think UCLA is a team that, if they play well, can beat anybody in the country," Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes said. "There is no question about that. We are a defensive-minded team and that is why we are where we are."
While defense is Mississippi's calling card, the Rebels also have a few players who can get on a roll offensively.
Forward Justin Reed, who is averaging a team-leading 14.6 points, likes to work in the post and is a good rebounder, pulling down 6.7 per game.
The Rebels are hoping to bounce back from a 69-67 loss to South Carolina in the first round of the SEC tournament.
Mississippi also made to the round of 16 in last year's NCAA tournament, defeating Iona and Notre Dame before losing to Arizona.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Mississippi - F Reed (14.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg), F Derrick Allen (9.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg), G Aaron Harper (11.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg), G Jason Harrison (10 ppg, 3.9 apg), G David Sanders (12.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg). UCLA - F Barnes (13.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg), F Kapono (16.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg), C Gadzuric (11.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg), G Billy Knight (13.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg), G Cedric Bozeman (3.8 ppg, 3.5 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Mississippi - At-large bid, Southeastern Conference. UCLA - At-large bid, Pac-10 conference.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Mississippi - 3-5, 6 years. UCLA - 83-30, 38 years.