March 15, 2002
Get your Bruin gear here!
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- UCLA senior guard Rico Hines decided to accessorize his sneakers for the NCAA tournament by writing "Final Four" on the sides.
"I don't know if any of the guys saw that," said Hines, a fifth-year senior. "But that's been one of my goals for my six years here. I wanted to send a message."
The Bruins delivered one - loud and clear.
Billy Knight made three straight 3-pointers to open the second half as UCLA advanced to the second round of the West Regional with an 80-58 victory over Mississippi on Friday night.
The eighth-seeded Bruins (20-11), who entered having lost four of their last six and have been inconsistent the past two months, looked like a team capable of making a run deep into the tournament.
"They talk about teams that are hot coming in," Knight said. "But that doesn't mean anything. It's what you do when you get here."
To advance farther, the Bruins will have to get by top-seeded Cincinnati in the second round Sunday. Behind Steve Logan's 27 points, the Bearcats rolled to a 90-52 win over 16th-seeded Boston University.
Knight finished with 21 points and freshman Dijon Thompson had 16 for the Bruins, who got a huge lift from their bench.
Jason Kapono, the Bruins' leading scorer this season, had just 2 points - 14 under his average.
"We went with our hockey substitution there for a while," Bruins coach Steve Lavin said. "Our young kids played with a lot of energy."
Aaron Harper had 19 points and Justin Reed 14 to lead Ole Miss (20-11), which was hoping a win over college basketball's most storied program, might get it some national respect.
UCLA, though, had other plans. And maybe some bigger ones, too.
"We're going to go out swinging," Hines said.
With UCLA leading by 10, Knight opened the second half with a 3-pointer, and on the Bruins' next trip he drained another long-range jumper.
After a steal, Knight couldn't stop smiling as he ran to the same spot on the floor and pleaded for the ball. And almost as quickly as Kapono hit him with a pass, Knight swished another 3 to put the Bruins up by 19.
"I was in a slump the last four games," Knight said, who isn't in one any longer. "My teammates were finding me and I just felt it."
The Rebels, who shot just 34 percent, couldn't find the range against UCLA's zone defense. Ole Miss couldn't hit, going 10-for-35 on 3-pointers. Guard Jason Harrison missed all nine of his attempts behind the arc.
"I wanted to stay aggressive, I didn't want to have any regrets when it was over," Harrison said.
Rebels coach Rod Barnes had no problem with his team continuing to fire away.
"You can miss shots but you can't get beat in the transition game and on free throws," he said. "We said if they played their game it would be in their favor, and if we played our game, it would be in our favor. Clearly, it was in their favor."
Unhappy with what he was getting from his starters, Lavin benched all five and brought in his reserves midway through the first half.
The kids responded as Thompson scored 10 points and Patterson five in a 15-0 run that put UCLA up 28-13. Lavin nearly brought his starters back during the spurt, but called them back from the scorer's table when Thompson hit a short jumper.
Harper then went on a personal 9-0 run with three straight 3-pointers to bring the Rebels within two, but Knight hit a long 3 as the Bruins closed with an 8-0 burst to lead 36-26 at halftime.
The Bruins, who were ranked as high as No. 3 this season, then opened the second half by scoring 13 straight, and coasted toward an interesting second-round matchup with Cincinnati.