Bruins Outlast Hilltoppers, Earn Elite Eight Date

March 27, 2008

Box Score |  Photo Gallery 

UCLA-Western Kentucky Post Game Video

PHOENIX (AP) -- With Kevin Love scoring a career-high 29 points, the Bruins weathered a tenacious second half effort to defeat Western Kentucky 88-78 in the NCAA West Regional on Thursday night.

Top-seeded UCLA (34-3) will play No. 3 seed Xavier on Saturday for a trip to its third consecutive Final Four.

The Bruins were more relieved than happy to survive the Hilltoppers, who took advantage of UCLA turnovers in the second half to pull within four points late in the game.

The Bruins routed overmatched Mississippi Valley State in the first round but haven't resembled a No. 1 seed since. They sweated out a two-point victory over Texas A&M in the second round.

"That was another exciting game for all the Bruin fans out there," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We want to keep you guys awake and on the edge of your seat."

Love had 14 rebounds and hit 10-of-14 shots from the floor to ensure these Bruins would not go into hibernation.

Love had help from James Keefe, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds, both career highs. Russell Westbrook added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Keefe, a sophomore who has battled back from shoulder surgery last August, played sparingly most of the season.

"I mean, this is why I came back, you know?" Keefe said.

Tyrone Brazelton scored 31 points--25 in the second half--and Courtney Lee added 18 for 12th-seeded Western Kentucky (29-7).

"We just dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half," Western Kentucky coach Darrin Horn said. "I'm unbelievably proud of my team."

Early on, the Bruins looked primed for a blowout, blitzing the Hilltoppers with a 23-4 run midway through the first half.

UCLA led 41-20 at halftime, but Western Kentucky wouldn't go away. The Hilltoppers began pressing, and the Bruins started to unravel. They had 12 turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the second half and finished with 19, a season high.

The Bruins appeared in trouble when point guard Darren Collison fouled out-- for the first time this year--with 5:39 to play. Collison had four points and four turnovers.

"They came out in some different angles," Collison said. "We didn't read the plays right. Everybody was sped up."

As the U.S. Airways Center crowd got behind them, the Hilltoppers went on a 19-6 run to whittle the lead to 61-57 with 6:50 to play. Brazelton capped the run by scoring eight unanswered points in less than a minute, on back-to-back 3-pointers and a layup.

But A.J. Slaughter missed a 3-pointer that would have pulled Western Kentucky within one point, and then Love scored from close range. Josh Shipp, an erratic long-range shooter, hit a 3 to push UCLA's lead to 68-59 with 4:30 to play.

"That in a nutshell was the game," Horn said. "It changed all the momentum. We had spent so much energy to get back into it, played so hard to get back, if that three goes down and we cut it to one, it's a totally different situation down the finish."

Howland was so desperate to stem the tide that he called his final timeout. Steadied, the Bruins did not let the Hilltoppers draw closer than six the rest of the way.

Perhaps it was no surprise that UCLA let the scrappy Hilltoppers back in the game. The Bruins rolled into the desert on a 12-game winning streak, but they hadn't been dominant. Five of their last eight wins had been by three points or less, and another came after they forced overtime.

The Hilltoppers had won eight straight games and reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1993, when Horn was a sophomore guard. At No. 12, Western Kentucky was the lowest remaining seed in the tourney, along with Villanova.

Early on, Western Kentucky looked the part of a 12th seed. The Hilltoppers came out jittery, with four turnovers in the first three minutes. And they had more turnovers (nine) than field goals (six) in the first half.

Lee made two of his first 13 shots from the floor.

Things were no better at the other end, where Western Kentucky had no answer for Love.

D.J. Magley and Jeremy Evans each fouled Love in a 5-second span in the first minute, and Evans went to the bench with his second foul three minutes into the game.

UCLA has had trouble generating offense recently--Love and Darren Collison scored 40 of UCLA's 51 points in the second-round victory over Texas A&M -- but that all changed during the 23-4 run midway through the first half.

Four players scored during the burst, including Shipp, who hit a 3-pointer to snap an 0-for-11 slump from beyond the arc over the last three-plus games. Western Kentucky called timeout, and several Bruins greeted a relieved Shipp on his way back to the bench.

UCLA Health Sponsor - Event Information
Friday, Oct 30
vs. Cal State Los ...
Los Angeles, CA
W, 95 - 57
Friday, Nov 13
vs. Monmouth
Los Angeles, CA
L, 81 - 84 (OT)
Sunday, Nov 15
vs. Cal Poly
Los Angeles, CA
W, 88 - 83
Thursday, Nov 19
vs. Pepperdine
Los Angeles, CA
W, 81 - 67
Monday, Nov 23
vs. UNLV
Lahaina, HI
W, 77 - 75
Tuesday, Nov 24
vs. Kansas
Lahaina, HI
L, 73 - 92
Wednesday, Nov 25
vs. Wake Forest
Lahaina, HI
L, 77 - 80
Sunday, Nov 29 - 4:00 PM PST
vs. CSUN
Los Angeles, CA
Thursday, Dec 03 - 6:00 PM PST
vs. Kentucky
Los Angeles, CA
Sunday, Dec 06 - 6:00 PM PST
vs. Long Beach State
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Dec 12 - 7:00 PM PST
at Gonzaga
Spokane, WA
Tuesday, Dec 15 - 6:00 PM PST
vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Dec 19 - 10:00 AM PST
vs. North Carolina
Brooklyn, NY
Tuesday, Dec 22 - 8:00 PM PST
vs. McNeese State
Los Angeles, CA
Friday, Jan 01 - 8:00 PM PST
at Washington
Seattle, WA
Sunday, Jan 03 - 6:30 PM PST
at Washington State
Pullman, WA
Thursday, Jan 07 - 6:00 PM PST
vs. Arizona
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Jan 09 - 2:00 PM PST
vs. Arizona State
Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday, Jan 13 - 8:00 PM PST
vs. USC
Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday, Jan 20 - 8:00 PM PST
at Oregon State
Corvallis, OR
Saturday, Jan 23 - 1:00 PM PST
at Oregon
Eugene, OR
Thursday, Jan 28 - 7:00 PM PST
vs. Washington
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Jan 30 - 4:00 PM PST
vs. Washington State
Los Angeles, CA
Thursday, Feb 04 - 7:30 PM PST
at USC
Los Angeles, CA
Friday, Feb 12 - 6:00 PM PST
at Arizona
Tucson, AZ
Sunday, Feb 14 - 5:30 PM PST
at Arizona State
Tempe, AZ
Thursday, Feb 18 - 7:00 PM PST
vs. Utah
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Feb 20 - 8:00 PM PST
vs. Colorado
Los Angeles, CA