A dozen UCLA basketball players wedged into folding chairs, knees and elbows bumping against neighbors. No one touched the refrigerator jammed with sports drinks and sodas. Voices didn’t rise above a whisper.
As team managers rolled out bags of equipment, players stared at the cinder block walls and tried to make sense of the sudden end to their season in an NCAA tournament play-in game at the University of Dayton Arena.
Travis Fields Jr. and Ed Polite Jr. each scored 13 points to lift Radford to its first-ever NCAA tournament win, 71-61, over LIU Brooklyn in the First Four on Tuesday night.
Carlik Jones added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Highlanders, who move on to face No. 1 seed Villanova on Thursday in Pittsburgh. Radford, the Big South champion, is making its third tournament appearance and first since 2009.
LIU Brooklyn stayed within striking distance for much of the game and got to within a point with five minutes left, but a 9-1 surge by the Highlanders allowed them to close it out.
The normal parsing of UCLA's NCAA tournament fate no longer applied Sunday.
There was relief as the Bruins learned they had been granted one of the 36 at-large entries near the start of the nationally televised selection show … followed by disbelief a few minutes later when the brackets were revealed as part of the show's revised format.
UCLA was being sent to Dayton, Ohio, for a dreaded play-in game, the first in the school's storied postseason history. The Bruins (21-11) will play St. Bonaventure (25-7) on Tuesday evening at the University of Dayton Arena. The winner becomes the 11th-seeded team in the East Regional.
St. Bonaventure has a fairly proud tradition for a program that has not won an NCAA tournament game since Bob Lanier led the Bonnies to the 1970 Final Four. The New York school has produced NBA players Andrew Nicholson, Freddie Crawford, J.R. Bremer, Whitey Martin and brothers Sam and Tom Stith in addition to Lanier, a Hall of Famer. Former Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly also attended St. Bonaventure for one year.
The biggest basketball newsmaker out of the school in recent years might be ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA journalist known for scooping his competitors. Wojnarowski and his wife, Amy, a fellow St. Bonaventure alumnus, donated $10,000 to fund student travel and ticket costs for the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.
The Bonnies have lost their only two games against UCLA, in 1973 and ’74 but say they are emboldened by facing a school that has produced NBA greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, among many others.
Steve Alford was watching game footage in a hotel ballroom in China, preparing for a season opener only a few days away, when everything changed.
The UCLA men's basketball coach was informed that a few players had been spotted on surveillance cameras stealing items from a mall near the hotel where the team was staying. Authorities were questioning players.
The jolting development touched off a mad four-month scramble that involved more than the suspension of the three UCLA players who admitted shoplifting. There was a high-profile defection by one of them, LiAngelo Ball, following tweets from President Trump; a brutal travel schedule featuring roughly 23,500 air miles flown for nonconference games; the cancellation of a home game because of wildfires; a three-game losing streak; and a last-ditch effort to make the NCAA tournament.
On Monday, a day after USC learned it was not among the 68 teams selected to compete in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, coach Andy Enfield continued to express shock and disappointment over the Trojans' exclusion.
"The feeling is the same," Enfield said after a brief practice. "It doesn't go away in a day because we should be in the NCAA tournament."
Cynthia Allman began a long day's journey into a blissful night at 4 a.m. in New York on Saturday, when she arrived at the airport to catch a flight to see her son play in the Big West Conference tournament.
"The flight was canceled and rescheduled for 8 a.m.," Allman said. "Then it was 8:30 a.m. and then 11 a.m. So I took a bus to another airport and caught a flight to Chicago and was able to make a connection to Santa Ana. I got in at 7:30 p.m. and headed to the arena."
By 8:30, she had reconnected with her husband — who had been on a business trip in Florida — at the Honda Center.