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March 24, 2006OAKLAND, California -- Gonzaga's supposed ascension into the ranks of the nation's power programs completely crumbled. UCLA was more than willing to kick around the pieces. The second-seeded Bruins scored the final 11 points, including a steal from Jordan Farmar and a basket by freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in the final seconds, to rally for a shocking 73-71 victory over the third-seeded Bulldogs in the semifinals of the Oakland Region.
A "Sweet 16" participant for the fourth time and a regional finalist in 1999, Gonzaga (29-4) was in need of a deeper run to cement its rise under coach Mark Few from a perennial upstart to a national powerhouse.
With Adam Morrison, the nation's leading scorer, doing his part and the Bulldogs showcasing some uncharacteristic solid defense, they appeared well on their way to a rematch with top-seeded Memphis in the regional finals, carrying a 71-62 lead into the final four minutes.
"This team (Gonzaga) has been incredible this entire year by winning games like that and digging them out," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "It just finally caught up to us in the end."
Mbah a Moute, one of the nation's top freshmen, made two free throws and scored on a follow shot with 2:09 left to start UCLA's game-closing run. After the teams traded empty possessions, Farmar sank a difficult runner on the baseline to make it 71-68 with 52 seconds to go.
As it has done all season, Gonzaga went to Morrison, who dribbled down the shot clock but missed a jumper from the left side with 23 ticks remaining. Bruins center Ryan Hollins was fouled by J.P. Batista on the rebounding action and made both foul shots with 19 seconds left to make it a one-point game.
After a timeout, Morrison took an inbounds pass in the backcourt and instantly was double-teamed. Although Derek Raivio - a 91 percent foul shooter - appeared to be open, Morrison chose a cross-court pass to Batista, who was double-teamed by Farmar and Cedric Bozeman.
"We were just trying to apply extreme pressure," Farmar said. "We were down one, we needed to force a steal and were going to foul if they got past half court."
Rather than foul as the clock ticked toward the final 10 seconds, the Bruins batted the ball from Batista, and Farmar ended up with it on the left wing. The Pac-10 Conference leader in assists turned and threw a lob to Mbah a Moute, who was alone for a go-ahead lay-up with just under 10 seconds remaining.
"I think (Bozeman) knocked it loose and I picked it up," Farmar said. "Thank God Luc is 6-7 with a 7-foot wingspan. I just put it up there and Luc went and got it and made a great play."
Replays showed Raivio calling for the ball while Batista held it, perhaps expecting to be fouled.
" We had a play set up and I was supposed to pass the ball," Batista said. "Everything worked out. I thought he fouled me, but hey, they didn't call it, so you just got to keep going."
Raivio brought the ball into the frontcourt but had Mbah a Moute dive from behind and tie him up for a jump ball with 2.6 seconds left. The Bruins retained possession and Arron Afflalo, who fought through foul trouble to score 15 points, split two free throws with 1.9 seconds to go to cap the scoring.
Gonzaga heaved a long pass to Batista, whose turnaround jumper from the left wing at the buzzer missed the iron, sending Morrison to the floor with tears streaming down his face and elated Bruins sprinting off their bench.
"We had control of the game for most of the night, it just happened in a blur," Morrison said. "That's the way the game works."
UCLA will face Memphis on Saturday in a bid for its first Final Four appearance since the 1995 national championship squad. The Tigers defeated the Bruins, 88-80, in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off on November 23.
UCLA, which trailed by as many as 17 points late in the first half, had just three turnovers in the second half to Gonzaga's eight. It also shot 53 percent (16-of-30) from the floor, a marked improvement from the opening 20 minutes that saw the Bruins miss their first eight shots before Afflalo's runner nearly nine minutes in cut the Bulldogs' lead to 18-9.
"We were the tentative ones in the first half," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I think we did a better job of playing way more aggressively at both ends of the floor in the second half."
Gonzaga shot 36 percent (9-of-25) after the break.
"We just didn't finish that one off," Few said. "I'm really proud of how our guys came out. I thought we had a great approach and were the aggressive team for almost that entire game."
Farmar also scored 15 points and Mbah a Moute had 10 of his 14 in the second half. Hollins chipped in 12 points for UCLA, which had lost its last three visits to the regional semifinals.
Morrison led the Bulldogs with 24 points and Batista added 18. Gonzaga had 14 assists against 16 turnovers and made only one 3-pointer in the second half in falling short of its first 30-win season.
The Bulldogs took control from the outset. Morrison opened the scoring with a jumper 25 seconds in and Raivio's 3-pointer moments later snapped a 2-2 tie and gave Gonzaga a lead it would hold for nearly 36 minutes.
Morrison had six straight Bulldog points to help his team open its largest lead of the first half at 37-20 with 3:18 left. The margin remained 17 at 42-25 before Farmar had two free throws and Mbah a Moute a lay-up to close the half.
The Bruins opened the second half on an 11-4 run that closed the gap to 46-40, but Morrison had a four-point play with 15:25 left to start an 11-3 burst, during which Afflalo departed with his fourth foul.
UCLA's leading scorer, Afflalo soon returned and immediately went to work by making a 3-pointer to cut the Bruins' deficit to 57-46 with 11:16 left.
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