UCLA has history with both potential Sweet 16 foes, Gonzaga and Iowa
In a victorious UCLA locker room Saturday, Gyorgy Goloman posed a question to teammates.
“Who would you rather play?” he said. “Iowa or Gonzaga?”
With their 92-75 win over Alabama Birmingham, the Bruins were the first team in the South region to advance to the regional semifinals, in Houston. They won’t learn which team they’ll play until Sunday, when the second-seeded Bulldogs will play the Hawkeyes, the seventh seed.
Either, though, would provide an interesting matchup.
By national championships, UCLA’s is the most successful basketball program anywhere. But since 1999, when the Bulldogs began their streak of 17 straight NCAA tournaments, Gonzaga arguably has been the West Coast’s best program.
The two teams have tournament history in the regional semifinal. In 2006, Gonzaga was the No. 3 seed, UCLA No. 2. The Bruins never led until the end, and they trailed by as many as 17.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored with 10 seconds left to give UCLA a 73-71 victory. Afterward, Gonzaga star Adam Morrison was left sprawled on the floor in tears while UCLA players celebrated. It has become a signature image of the NCAA tournament
Earlier this season, the Bruins lost to Gonzaga by 13 points at Pauley Pavilion.
Iowa has a past with UCLA Coach Steve Alford, who coached the Hawkeyes from 1999 to 2007.
After UCLA’s win Saturday, the players around Goloman’s locker reached an agreement after a brief discussion. The opponent, they decided, didn’t matter.
Before the NCAA tournament, UCLA hadn’t won consecutive games on the road all season. Even factoring in neutral-site games and a trip across town to play USC, UCLA hadn’t won two games in a row away from Pauley Pavilion.
In fact, that was one of the knocks against the Bruins when it came time to select the NCAA tournament field.
Now they’ve won two neutral-site games in Louisville.
“There’s no better time to do that than March,” Alford said.
UCLA has given up a heap of three-pointers to teams not known for making a lot of them. UAB is 261st in the nation in three-pointers made per game, averaging 5.4. Southern Methodist is 329th, with 4.3.
But against the Bruins, UAB made 12 of 26 and SMU made seven of 16.
UCLA point guard Bryce Alford said the defense has packed in tighter to prevent easy baskets. UAB scored just 22 points in the paint. But the strategy has left the Bruins more vulnerable on the perimeter.
“You’ve got to live with that sometimes,” Bryce Alford said. “You’ve got to pick your poison with some teams.”
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