Missouri continues its magical run, 82-73

Tigers tame UCLA, become first 12th seed to advance to Elite Eight

West Regional

NCAA Tournament

March 22, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The trudge upward continues for Missouri, the team that thought it had arrived, found it hadn't, started over and now has a shot at the school's first Final Four appearance.

The 12th-seeded Tigers defeated No. 8 seed UCLA, 82-73, in a West Regional semifinal game last night at Compaq Center.

Clarence Gilbert scored 23 points and Kareem Rush scored 20 for Missouri (24-11), which hit 10 three-pointers to move into the Elite Eight for only the third time in the program's history and the first time since 1994.

Missouri is the first 12th-seeded team to reach the round of eight.

Tomorrow, the Tigers meet second-seeded Oklahoma, a team they lost to earlier this season, 84-71. The Sooners beat third-seeded Arizona, 88-67, last night.

Last night's win is just the latest step in the gradual climb for the Tigers, who had been ranked as high as No. 2 this season after starting with nine straight victories.

However, Missouri was in danger of not making the NCAA tournament because it struggled in its next 23 games. Before the tournament, the Tigers were seen as a greater bet to exit after the first round than to make it to the Final Four.

But while the Tigers committed 20 turnovers and trailed by as many as nine points in the second half, they also held the Bruins (21-12) to 40 percent shooting and got 42 second-half points from Rush, Gilbert and Arthur Johnson, who finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

"If you look at teams that advance, there are games where you aren't at your best, but you find a way to win," Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. "Every time those situations occurred, we never hung our heads. That is the story of our team."

Both teams struggled early, before UCLA began looking like a group intent on taking control of the game.

Dan Gadzuric and Matt Barnes, who had 26 and 17 points in a second-round upset of Cincinnati, both keyed a 13-4 Bruins run that ended on two free throws by Billy Knight, good for a 26-17 lead with 4:38 left in the first half.

UCLA, which had hit four of its last six shots at that point after missing 14 of its previous 23 shots, went cold again. Plagued by 10 first-half turnovers that contributed to its early hole, the Tigers began to claw out, led by Rickey Paulding, who scored 15 points.

Over a period of 1:52, Paulding scored nine unanswered points -- all on three-point shots. The last one tied the game at 26-26 with 1:56 left, then he gave Missouri a 30-28 halftime advantage on a pull-up jumper with 28 seconds remaining before the halftime buzzer.

In the second half, Barnes helped UCLA build a slight cushion. The senior forward scored nine straight points for the Bruins.

The Tigers, counted out in general for much of the past month, hung tough with timely shooting from Gilbert and Rush, who combined to hit seven three-pointers in the second half.

"If I'm open, the coaches want me to shoot," Rush said. "I stayed confident and knew that once I got my rhythm, it was going in."

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