NCAA News Wire

UCLA roll past Stephen F. Austin

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SAN DIEGO — In the end, there would be no 16-point play for Stephen F. Austin.

Instead, it was UCLA securing a spot in the Sweet 16.

The Bruins defeated Stephen F. Austin 77-60 in Sunday’s third-round South Region NCAA Tournament game. No. 4-seeded UCLA next faces overall No. 1-seeded Florida on Thursday in Memphis for a spot in the Elite Eight.

“Obviously I’m very proud of our team,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said.

Stephen F. Austin, seeded 12th, had become one of the NCAA Tournament darlings with Friday’s dramatic overtime win against Virginia Commonwealth, when the Lumberjacks tied the game on a four-point play with 3.3 seconds left in regulation.

But UCLA (28-8) was not eager to allow Stephen F. Austin (32-3) to write another compelling chapter at its expense. Instead it forged ahead by 10 at halftime, went up by 17 about midway through the second half and cruised in for the victory to snap the Lumberjacks’ 29-game winning streak.

“UCLA is a very, very good team and they were really good today,” SFA coach Brad Underwood said. “They have a chance to advance a long way.”

The Bruins, who face an old NCAA Tournament nemesis in Florida, head for their first Sweet 16 since 2008, when they advanced to the Final Four for the third straight season. In two of those trips, they were ousted by the Gators and that includes the 2006 title game.

“It’s nice and it’s a big accomplishment,” UCLA guard Kyle Anderson said about Sunday’s win. “But they don’t hang Sweet 16 banners up in Pauley Pavilion.”

UCLA is living in the present and that’s a pretty good spot. The Bruins have won five straight — a run that includes beating Arizona for the Pac-12 tournament championship — as they continue to shine in coach Alford’s first season.

“They have bought in from Day One,” Alford said of it being just about one year since he took over. “They have been in with both feet. To be one of 15 other teams, when it started with 350 teams, is pretty special.

UCLA had three players in double figures, with guard Jordan Adams getting 19 points, guard Norman Powell adding 16 and guard Anderson contributing 15.

The Lumberjacks were paced by guard Thomas Walkup’s 22 points and 10 rebounds.

But SFA couldn’t handle UCLA’s length advantage.

“It was frustrating on defense,” Walkup said. “We didn’t do what we usually do and they were able to score at will sometimes.”

The Bruins were keen in taking care of the ball in dishing out 22 assists and committing but three turnovers.

“This team has been doing stuff like this all year long,” Alford said.

UCLA went up by eight points about eight minutes into the game thanks to an eight-point run highlighted by a 3-pointer from Anderson.

But Stephen F. Austin fought back to trail 22-19 on a layup by Walkup. Then the Bruins raced to an 11-point lead with an 8-2 sprint capped by a 3-pointer from guard Bryce Alford and a layup by Adams.

SFA closed to five points with under four minutes left in the half, but another Bruins surge allowed them to take a 10-point cushion into the locker room.

Adams had 12 points and Anderson 11 at halftime.

The Lumberjacks, who shot but 38 percent from the field in the opening half, were paced by Walkup’s 12 points.

In all, SFA would shoot just 35 percent as the Bruins’ stifling defense — a mix of zone and man — has them back where they think they belong: playing in the tournament’s second weekend.

“It’s a great step,” Alford said, “in the right direction.”

SFA steps away with some great memories.

“We didn’t have a great year, we had a year for the history books,” Underwood said.

UCLA’s history demands a title, and for the first time since 2008, the Bruins are just four wins away.

NOTES: UCLA faced Stephen F. Austin one time before Sunday night. The Bruins beat the Lumberjacks 109-88 in 1995. … UCLA’s 81.7 points-per-game average is its most since 1997-98 when it averaged 83.1. … UCLA G Jordan Adams, the team’s leading