AP Preview: UCLA vs. Missouri

March 20, 2002

GAME: No. 12 Missouri (23-11) vs. No. 8 UCLA (21-11).

REGIONAL: West, semifinals.

TIME: 10:25 p.m. EST.

SITE: Compaq Center, San Jose, Calif.

The first time Missouri and UCLA met in the NCAA tournament seven years ago, the Bruins won on a last-second shot and went on to capture the national championship.

This time, a talented UCLA club looks primed to make another run at the Final Four when it takes on the upstart Tigers in the West Regional semifinals.

The Bruins pulled off the first defeat of a No. 1 seed in this year's tournament Sunday, beating Cincinnati 105-101 in double overtime. Dan Gadzuric scored a career-high 26 points as UCLA rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to knock off the Bearcats.

"We've been up and down all season," UCLA forward Matt Barnes said. "Especially with the high expectations we had. But we usually get hot at tourney time."

Jason Kapono scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime and Barnes added 17 points - all after the first 20 minutes - and 11 assists for UCLA.

The Bruins have momentum after toppling Cincinnati in thrilling fashion, which also happened in 1995 when they faced Missouri in the second round. In that game, Tyus Edney went the length of the floor and hit a layup at the buzzer to give the Bruins a 75-74 victory.

That win, UCLA's only meeting with Missouri in the NCAA tournament, propelled the Bruins to the national championship.

"I remember cheering for UCLA when he made that shot," Missouri sophomore forward Travon Bryant said. "Pretty much, I didn't know that much about Missouri back then.

"We know we're going to try to prevent that from happening again."

Missouri has a chance to prevent it with the way it has played in this tournament. The Tigers followed up a convincing first-round win over Miami with an 83-67 upset of fourth-seeded Ohio State on Saturday.

Rickey Paulding had 20 points and nine rebounds, and Kareem Rush added 17 points and nine boards as Missouri overwhelmed the Buckeyes with their superior athleticism and size, outrebounding them 52-28.

Like UCLA, Missouri is a talented team that struggled at times during the season, only to find its focus at the outset of the NCAA tournament.

"They just started listening more attentively," coach Quin Snyder said. "I just think they are taking everything in on a deeper level. As a group, they have more depth now."

Both Missouri and UCLA are here in part because they get contributions from many players on their rosters. Both squads have four starters who average more than 11 points per game, and Snyder and Bruins coach Steve Lavin use deep rotations.

"Everybody is really confident right now," Gadzuric said. "We knew we had to play with confidence in this tournament."

PROBABLE STARTERS: Missouri - F Bryant (6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), F Paulding (11.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg), C Arthur Johnson (12.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg), G Rush (19.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg), G Clarence Gilbert (17.1 ppg, 3.3 apg). UCLA - F Barnes (13.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg), F Kapono (16.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg), C Gadzuric (11.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg), G Billy Knight (14.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg), G Cedric Bozeman (3.8 ppg, 3.6 apg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Missouri - At-large bid, Big 12 Conference, defeated No. 5 Miami 93-80, first round, defeated No. 4 Ohio State 83-67, second round. UCLA - At-large bid, Pac-10 Conference, defeated No. 9 Mississippi 80-58, first round, defeated No. 1 Cincinnati 105-101 (2 OT), second round.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Missouri - 16-19, 20 years. UCLA - 85-30, 38 years.

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