|UCLA feeling the pain after a third straight Final Four defeat|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 06 April 2008 10:14|
The Memphis Tigers spent Sunday talking about playing in Monday night's title game against Kansas. The bummed-out Bruins flew home to Los Angeles, still feeling the pain of a 78-63 clawing by the Tigers in the semifinals.
Two years ago, Florida played stifling defense and forced the Bruins into 36 percent shooting from the floor and 12 turnovers in the championship game. Last year, the Gators again trumped the Bruins in the semifinals.
This time, UCLA was stymied by Memphis' speed-up offense and athletic bunch of players. They caused the Bruins to shoot 37.5 percent and commit 12 turnovers. The 15-point loss was their worst of the season.
``We did what we have been doing all year, but it just wasn't enough,'' Josh Shipp said. ``We had a good season, but for UCLA standards it was disappointing.''
Asked what has to change for the Bruins to win at the Final Four, Howland replied, ``Every year's different. I don't know if there's some sweeping change that we need. It's very difficult to get here. Unfortunately for us, we've run up against now three really good teams.''
The Bruins finished 35-4, a school record for victories and three more than the old mark set by the 1995 national championship team and tied in 2006.
M in the second round and an 88-78 win against Western Kentucky in the regional semifinal after frittering away most of a 21-point halftime lead.
But Memphis' backcourt of freshman Derrick Rose (25 points, nine rebounds) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (28 points) overwhelmed the Bruins' Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook. Rose also proved the better rookie against UCLA freshman phenom Kevin Love, who had 12 points and nine rebounds while double-teamed.
``I thought this was our best team, our best chance,'' said Howland, the first coach since John Wooden to take the Bruins to three consecutive Final Four appearances. ``I told our team after the game, 'Only one team is going to leave San Antonio completely satisfied.' I'm just sorry it's not going to be us.''
The Bruins will lose center Lorenzo Mata-Real, their only senior who gave up his starting spot without complaint after Love arrived and then played solid defense off the bench.
``This is tough to finish like this, but I thank the guys for the ride we have had,'' he said.
Now, the question is how many of UCLA's five starters will return or jump to the NBA draft.
Love was forecast to be a one-and-done before he arrived in Westwood. He scored in double figures in all 39 games and posted 23 double-doubles.
``I'll be in class on Monday,'' he said. ``I haven't given any thought about if it's my last college game.''
Collison has dictated the Bruins' offense and defense through the three Final Four appearances, but the point guard slumped in the tournament. The junior went 1-for-9 with two points and fouled out against Memphis. He had more fouls (11) than baskets (nine) in his final three tournament games and also fouled out against Western Kentucky.
``To get here three times in a row and not to win all those three times, it's really frustrating,'' Collison said. ``You're always thinking how I can get over that hump. Last year, it was painful. This year, it's even more painful.''
Westbrook had a career game against the Tigers, scoring 22 points. Shipp was mired in a shooting slump for the most critical stretch of the season. The junior forward hit two 3-pointers early in Saturday night's game, then cooled off again.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute played through the postseason with a sprained left ankle and provided valuable scoring while averaging 10.3 rebounds in the tournament. He had 12 points and 13 rebounds against the Tigers and became the first player to start a Final Four game for the third straight year since 1999-01.
``I want to win a championship. Coming here three years in a row and losing really doesn't feel good,'' said Mbah a Moute, whose parents traveled from Cameroon to see their son play a college game in person for the first time. ``Hopefully, I have a chance to do it again next year.''
Besides Mata-Real, reserves Alfred Aboya and James Keefe contributed valuable minutes. Keefe emerged when Mbah a Moute hurt his ankle during the Pac-10 tournament, and the sophomore forward scored a career-high 18 points against Western Kentucky. Michael Roll, a consistent 3-point shooter, will return from his medical redshirt next season.
But the Bruins almost need one of their guards to leave because of the glut of players coming in at that position. Jrue Holiday, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee, a trio standing 6-foot-plus, are signed for next season. Also arriving is Drew Gordon, a 6-8 forward-center.
Holiday can guard three different positions, run the point or play shooting guard.
``He's a nightmare matchup for people,'' Howland said. ``He's a very good defender and is unbelievably competitive.''
Lee can play point or at the off-guard position because of his shooting abilities.
``I've already threatened him that I'm going to pull him out of the game if he doesn't shoot more once he gets to UCLA because he's such a good shooter,'' Howland said. ``Malcolm can be a lock-down defender because he has very quick feet.''
Knowing who the Bruins have and who's coming in, Shipp looked ahead.
``I think that the majority of the guys will be back,'' he said. ``We're definitely thinking about another try. Being at UCLA, that is our goal to win championships, and we are going to try to get back next year.''