Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of teams that pulled off upsets on Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament will clash head-to-head Saturday, as the 14th- seeded UAB Blazers take on the 11th-seeded UCLA Bruins in a South Region battle at the KFC Yum! Center.
The winner here moves on to the Sweet 16 against either Gonzaga or Iowa.
UAB and third-seeded Iowa State battled back and forth for the entirety of the second-round contest Thursday, but it was UAB that held on down the stretch to claim victory, 60-59, to advance. It was UAB's 10th tournament win all-time.
UCLA won on a much talked-about goaltending call that gave the Bruins a 60-59 victory over sixth-seeded SMU Thursday. The Mustangs were hit with a debatable goaltending call, giving UCLA the one-point lead, and SMU failed to convert a pair of game-winning tries before time ran out. This is UCLA's 47th tournament appearance.
This will be the first time UAB and UCLA play each other on the basketball court.
For UAB on Thursday against Iowa State, it was a perfect combination of poor ISU shooting plus strong rebounding for the Blazers. The Blazers held a 52-37 rebounding advantage in the game, which included 19 offensive boards - nine from Tyler Madison, which matched the total for the entire Cyclones team. Although UAB connected on just 34.8 percent of its shots, Iowa State made a mere 36.9 percent from the floor. Robert Brown scored 21 points to lead the Blazers, while Tosin Mehinti tallied a double-double of 14 points and 12 boards. Madison finished the game with 11 total rebounds.
The youthful Blazers were able to capture the Conference USA crown despite going into the league postseason as the fourth seed. The team is strong offensively, netting 68.6 ppg. But defensively, UAB has struggled a bit to contain opponents this season, allowing 67.4 ppg, although the Blazers did well against a very talented Iowa State squad. Brown is the only UAB player to average a double-digit scoring total, netting 13.3 ppg. Freshman William Lee (8.0 ppg) leads the team on the glass with 6.0 rpg. As a unit, the Blazers are bringing down 37.0 boards per outing, while five players on the team have notched a double-digit total in blocked shots.
It was certainly a controversial ending to the contest between UCLA and SMU, in which the latter held a nine-point advantage with four and a half minutes remaining. Bryce Alford almost single-handedly led the Bruins back, as the sophomore connected on 9-of-11 shooting from 3-point range with some big buckets late in the contest. It was his 3-pointer that was the subject of a goaltending call that put UCLA ahead in the final seconds. Alford was credited with 27 points, while senior guard Norman Powell added 19 and Kevon Looney grabbed 10 rebounds. The Bruins held SMU to 36.4 percent shooting in the win.
UCLA has been known all season as an offensively gifted team, but the defense has struggled to slow opponents down, allowing 67.8 ppg. Powell leads the charge offensively with 16.5 ppg, followed closely by Alford's 15.4 ppg total. The sophomore son of coach Steve Alford, Bryce also leads the squad with 167 assists. Looney (11.7 ppg), Tony Parker (10.9 ppg) and Isaac Hamilton (10.5 ppg) round out a group of double-digit scorers for the Bruins, who collect 71.6 ppg as a team on 44 percent shooting from the floor.