No. 11 UCLA beats ‘Bama 88-78 in OT to reach Elite Eight

Alabama

Alabama forward Alex Reese (3) celebrates with Keon Ellis, left, and John Petty Jr. (23) after hitting a three-point basket to force overtime against UCLA at the end of the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

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April 29 2021 07:00 pm

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 17 points, hitting two big jumpers early in overtime, and No. 11 seed UCLA held on after Alabama’s Alex Reese drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of regulation to beat the second-seeded Crimson Tide 88-78 in a Sweet 16 showdown Sunday night.

With star guard Johnny Juzang fouled out, Jaquez and David Singleton took control in overtime. Jaquez curled in a jumper to make it 74-68, then drilled a 3-pointer to make it 77-70 moments later. Singleton’s free throws made it 79-70 with under a minute to go, and all UCLA (21-9) had to do was put the game away from the foul line.

After beating Michigan State in overtime just to escape the First Four, the unheralded Bruins are headed to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008. They’ll face top-seeded Michigan on Tuesday night for a spot in the Final Four.

UCLA thought it had the game won in regulation when Cody Riley’s lay-in made it 63-62 with 14 seconds left, and Herbert Jones — a 75% foul shooter for Alabama — missed both of his attempts with 6 seconds left.

Singleton was fouled and made two free throws for UCLA, pushing the lead to 65-62 with 4 seconds to go. But that still gave the Crimson Tide enough time to find Reese, whose tying 3-pointer splashed just before the buzzer.

Jules Bernard also scored 17 points, Singleton had 15 and Juzang and Tyger Campbell added 13 apiece as the Bruins gave coach Mick Cronin his first trip to a regional semifinal in 18 years as a college head coach.

Jahvon Quinerly scored 20 points and John Petty Jr. had 16 for the Crimson Tide (26-7), who have lost eight of their nine games in the Sweet 16. Their only Elite Eight appearance was in 2004 — six national titles ago for their football program.

With the sun setting through the clerestory windows of Hinkle Fieldhouse, casting a warm glow on the few thousand fans inside, the school known for its championship pedigree on the gridiron struck the first blow on the hardwood.

The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early lead, even after Jones picked up two offensive fouls in the first 41 seconds, as their brilliant backcourt set the tempo. Quinerly kept breaking down the Bruins’ perimeter defense, and Ellis did his best imitation of Petty, the school’s career 3-point leader, by hitting step-back 3s.

For a while, Juzang singlehandedly kept the Bruins in the game.

The transfer from Kentucky made enough baskets to slow down Alabama’s up-and-down approach, and that allowed UCLA to turn the game into a half-court affair — or as Cronin calls it, a “judicious” style of play.

Then the rest of the Bruins got involved.

Singleton came off the bench to bury two 3-pointers. Jaquez, the hero of their First Four win over Michigan State, knocked down his own jumper. And Bernard hit a trio of 3s, turning one into a four-point play with a foul and the last of them giving UCLA a 40-29 lead heading into the locker room.

Alabama promptly wiped out its deficit with an 11-0 run to start the second half, starting a back-and-forth clash over the final 15 minutes between a program that’s no stranger to March Madness and one trying to prove it belonged.

Turned out that wasn’t enough. It took five more minutes to decide.

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The Bruins will play the top-seeded Wolverines for a spot in the Final Four. UCLA has beaten Michigan in three of their four NCAA Tournament games, including the 1965 national championship in Portland, Oregon.

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