MINNEAPOLIS (Mar. 16)(AP) - Jason Kapono scored all of his 17 points in the second half and Earl
Watson had 11 assists while leading a strong second-half offensive
sixth-seeded UCLA beat 11th-seeded Ball State 65-57 March 16.
Ball State led 33-32 with less than 15 minutes to play before their shots stopped falling and UCLA's potent offense got revved up. The Bruins protected the lead
late by shutting down the Cardinals' shooters and finally hitting some free throws.
A half-dozen UCLA players made significant offensive contributions as the Bruins (20-11) overpowered Ball State (22-9) with a 15-0 run early in the second
half. Kapono, the Bruins' freshman scoring leader, hit four 3-pointers, while Dan Gadzuric provided strong defense inside and grabbed 12 rebounds.
JaRon Rush, in his fourth game back from NCAA suspension, hit two big 3-pointers as the Bruins opened a 47-33 lead with 10:48 to play. Rush finished with 14
points and Jerome Moiso added 12.
The Bruins' free throw shooting was as bad as ever until the final seconds, when Kapono and Moiso hit big ones. UCLA, which was upset in the first round last
season by Detroit, couldn't afford to breathe easily until the grinning Kapono hit four free throws in the final minute.
Gadzuric added a euphoric dunk with less than a second to play to cap the win. As they ran off the court, the jubilant Bruins appeared to finally be enjoying
themselves after a tense season.
High-scoring Duane Clemens had 16 points to lead Ball State, but he was just 7-of-24 from the field and was hounded all night by Watson and Kapono. Cedric
Moodie had 15 points off the bench.
The game was a turf war even before it began. After pregame introductions, the teams gathered at midcourt for their huddles and began accidentally bumping into
each other, leading the officials to smilingly step between them.
Both teams shot poorly and played excellent defense in the first half, leading to a low halftime score of 26-22. Gadzuric's thunderous one-handed alley-oop dunk
put UCLA up 18-9, but Ball State scored the next seven points and eventually took a 26-22 lead on Patrick Jackson's second 3-pointer with four seconds left in
But the momentum Ball State held early in the second half disappeared as the Bruins began to put on an offensive show befitting a team with four McDonald's
All-Americans. Moiso, Gadzuric and Rush all threw down alley-oops and Kapono buried consecutive 3-pointers.