for this game

Top seed Kansas faces another defensive obstacle in UCLA

Mar 24, 2007 - 1:13 PM No. 2 UCLA (29-5) at No. 1 Kansas (33-4) 7:00 pm EDT

SAN JOSE, California (Ticker) -- Coming off its lowest point total in more than three months, Kansas faces the prospects of another grudge match.

Top-seeded Kansas looks to continue its quest for its first national championship in 19 years when it squares off with second-seeded UCLA in the Midwest Regional final of the NCAA Tournament.

For the Jayhawks (33-4) to improve their chances for capturing an elusive title, they will have to get through the Bruins, last year's national runner-up and a stalwart defensive squad.

Leading scorer Brandon Rush and Kansas know all about tough defenses after Missouri Valley Conference powerhouse Southern Illinois held them to their lowest point total since December 2 in a 61-58 victory on Thursday.

"I would probably say yes," said Kansas coach Bill Self when asked if his team will need to score more than 61 points to beat UCLA. "I wouldn't feel very comfortable if that's all we got."

Rush, who collected the decisive basket in the lane with 25 seconds left, was the lone player in double figures with 12 points for the Jayhawks, shooting 6-of-6 from the field.

While Rush was perfect from the field, his teammates were also pretty good, as Kansas finished 60 percent (25-of-42) from the floor.

Yet, the Jayhawks were unable to shake the hardnosed Salukis especially after committing 19 turnovers, converting 53 percent (10-of-19) on their free throws and shooting 1-of-6 on 3-pointers.

Now Kansas gears up for UCLA, which has held opponents to 59.6 points this season on 43 percent shooting.

"I think this defense we're going to face is just as good if not better that SIU," Jayhawks guard Russell Robinson said. "I think they (have) a lot more talented guys. It's going to be scary."

Another scary thought for Kansas is that UCLA (29-5) is coming off a successful defensive battle with Pittsburgh, 64-55, on Thursday.

The Bruins, who are looking to record consecutive trips to the Final Four since 1974-75, limited coach Ben Howland's former team to 36 percent (20-of-55) shooting en route to holding all three of their NCAA Tournament victims under 56 points.

Along with the desire to play lockdown defense, UCLA has the experience of last year, with three starters returning from that run.

"We're a year older, a year stronger, a year smarter," Howland said. "We obviously lost three good players from last year's team. But the nucleus of this team, the top seven guys that are playing most of the minutes, all played significant roles last year. I think that's definitely a benefit for us."

The player that the Bruins do need to regain his touch if they want to continue on is leading scorer Arron Afflalo, who is shooting just 5-of-22 (23 percent), including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers, in his last two games.

The Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year, Afflalo did manage a combined 27 points in those wins over Indiana and Pitt thanks to 16-of-17 from the free-throw line.

"My field goal percentage has been down a bit (lately)," Afflalo said. "As one of the more experienced guys on the team, I have to find other ways to help my team, whether it's defense on the floor, making a pass doing something else.

"For myself individually, I just have to do a better job of trying to manufacture points a different way, if that's getting to the line, doing some different things."

  • 71
    sammyja Added 5 roots

    UCLA vs. KansasMar 25 5:59 PM
  • katieb ball in the basket- that is the point of basketball, kansas. thought that was a given.

    UCLA vs. KansasMar 24 9:18 PM

    --- --- -----
    UCLA 35 33 68
    KANSAS 31 24 55 FINAL

    Mar 24 9:18 PM
  • 66
    bones Added 5 roots

    UCLA vs. KansasMar 24 8:57 PM
  • katieb what is wrong with kansas?!?!?!?!?!

    UCLA vs. KansasMar 24 8:55 PM

    NCAA BB (2) UCLA 35

    Mar 24 7:57 PM
  • 61
    RUWTbot Added 61 roots

    UCLA vs. KansasMar 24 7:06 PM